Published Date: Oct 24, 2017
SDPI Press Release (24 october,2017)
Politician and business persons of KP call for joint Charter of Economy
PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province must frame a joint charter of economy advocating the federal government to frame specialized policies for promotion of manufacturing, trade and investment, which have suffered in the context of insecurity and instability prevalent in over the last decade. This was agreed at a high-level meeting of politicians, legislators and business persons held by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in collaboration with the Centre for International Private Enterprise (CIPE).
During the meeting, participating legislators and politicians highlighted solutions to the issues and challenges being faced by Pakistan’s economy. Senator Noman Wazir of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) was of the view that the federal government’s claims of an economic turnaround were misleading. He urged the government to set its growth targets closer to 11%, as the growth rate of 4.7% recorded in the previous fiscal year was insufficient to cater to our growing population. He explained that the exporting sectors of the economy had been badly hit by the rising cost of utilities and poorly thought-out investment policies. He also expressed concern that the country would be unable to service its foreign debts in the context of prevalent macroeconomic frailties. He also highlighted the role that think tanks such as SDPI could play in supporting politicians and the business community to frame a joint charter of economy.
Bushra Gohar, Central Vice President of the Awami National Party (ANP), felt that economic issues needed to be discussed more frequently and in greater depth at the political level. She urged all relevant stakeholders to take greater notice of the prevalent internal and regional security environment within their economic analyses, especially in the context of KP whose economy had suffered greatly due to instability and worsening relations with Afghanistan. While discussing Pakistan’s overall economic performance, she expressed concern over policymakers’ preference for short-term fixes to long-standing structural issues, such as low tax-to-GDP ratio, low-levels of investment and regional trade, and persistent trade and fiscal deficits. She also stressed the need for bringing development issues at-par with debt re-servicing and defense in the budget-making process.
Faisal Karim Kundi, Provincial General Secretary of the Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPP-P), supported the call for drawing up a joint charter of economy to ensure consistency and continuity in the country’s economic policies and direction. While calling for greater attention towards the agricultural sector, he stressed the need for helping farmers transition towards use of the latest agricultural techniques and technologies. He highlighted the problem of electricity shortages, especially in KP’s rural areas, which had severely impacted the growth of agriculture and local small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Stressing the importance of trade with Afghanistan in the context of KP’s economy, he also called for an end to repeated and arbitrary closures of the Pak-Afghan border.
Professor Ibrahim of the Jamat e Islami emphasized the need for ensuring full implementation of the 18th amendment in the allocation of resources between the provinces. He expressed concern at the fall in direct taxes and rise in indirect taxes under Pakistan’s current fiscal regime. He also called for the passage of conflict-of-interest legislation to ensure that parliamentarians did not use their positions for private benefit.
Stressing the importance of promoting business for growth of the economy, Ghulam Ali of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), felt that local businesses were being burdened by multiple taxes and other constraints that had increased the cost-of-doing business. He also called on local business persons and chambers of commerce to reach across party lines and ensure that the province’s interests were being safeguarded in policymaking at the federal level.
Highlighting the economic impact of the prevalent law and order environment, representatives of KP’s business community lamented how the province had begun lagging behind other parts of the country. Zahid Ullah Shinwari, President of the KP Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KPCCI), called for preferential trade and investment policies to level the playing field with more prosperous provinces. He also called for lowering of corporate tax rates to discourage tax avoidance and effective implementation of the Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation Act 2005 to keep the country’s rising foreign debt in check. Haji Afzal, former President KPCCI, called on the federal government to facilitate local investors along the same lines as foreign investors. He also called for a lifting of the moratorium on new utility connections, which discouraged investment in the industrial sector. Adnan Jalil, former Vice President of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FPCCI), questioned the role of the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) in KP and called for performance assessment of Pakistan’s trade attaches in different countries. He also questioned where allocations under the Export Development Fund were being spent if they were not being provided to exporters.
Earlier in the meeting, Dr. Vaqar Ahmed, Deputy Executive Director at SDPI, outlined the economic reform priorities for elections 2018 that SDPI and CIPE had framed in consultation with representatives of all political parties, representatives of the FPCCI, KPCCI and the Pakistan Business Council. Basing his presentation on these nation-wide consultations, he stressed the need for a revival of SME-led growth in agriculture and industrial manufacturing, streamlining federal, provincial and local tax regimes, harmonizing the investment policies at federal and provincial levels, particularly in exporting sectors and global value-chains, and addressing structural issues faced by traditional and non-traditional exporting sectors, while at the same time focusing on market and product diversification. He also called for provinces to streamline the regulatory regime for initiating and expanding businesses with a clear focus on ease-of-doing business indicators. He also reported that affordability of energy was a key concern for local businesses, and called on political parties to include this concern in their upcoming manifestos. He also suggested that impediments to regional trade may also be addressed, especially since Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces had a key stake in regional trade with Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asia.
Other speakers at the event included Saud Bangash, Resident Director of the Pakistan Business Council, Mazhar ul Haq of the Chamber of Small Exporters and Businesses, and Abdur Rauf Shah, President of the Bannu Chamber of Commerce & Industry.