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Mariam Raheem


Published Date: Apr 9, 2021

Webinar emphasizes strengthening export competitiveness amid COVID-19

An online pre-budget symposium on export competitiveness amid Covid-19 in Pakistan was held jointly by SDPI and UK Aid on Thursday. Officials and experts discussed how the upcoming trade policy framework could be more relevant, how to use software and other online platforms to access the internet and adapt to the new normal, and how to attract domestic and international investment to boost Pakistan’s exports, etc.

COVID-19 with its challenges, has also brought certain opportunities for countries like Pakistan, as well as opportunities for adapting to new business models. In this regard, Pakistan has to prepare for reaching to the non-traditional markets and open up other sectors for investment.

As per Ms. Shandana Gulzar Khan, member of the National Assembly of Pakistan, Pakistan’s problem has essentially always been lack of empirical data which can be quantified across various factors and not just those dictated by certain large players in the industry. And there is no evidence of planned regional integration in Pakistan for the last 20 years. In this context, pandemic has thrown up all challenges, not new ones.

“The inability of the private sector to keep pace with the rest of the world has led to stagnant trade. The government is committed to creating a favorable atmosphere for suppliers, traders, exporters and industrialists in Pakistan to enjoy these concessions.” Ms. Shandana also stressed the importance of establishing peaceful relations with neighbor countries.

Ms. Aliya Hamza Malik, Parliamentary Secretary, Textile, Commerce, Industries stated in a record message that a policy regarding supporting the export competitiveness is needed. She introduced the challenges that the pandemic has brought to enterprises including rising operational costs, HR related issues and so on. She also explained measures taken by the government to respond to the first wave and the second wave of epidemic and lockdowns.

Maintaining that despite these uncertainties about the global economy due to COVID-19, government is finding ways to increase the ability to sell domestically produced goods and services on global markets. Mr. Hassan Daud Butt, CEO, KP-BoIT said at the occasion that Pakistan is building greater resilience by enacting fiscal reforms and enhancing export competitiveness and export-led growth is the right answer. The value of Ease of Trade and linking it with development and political policy is imperative. Pakistan is also improving its EoDB rating and continues to adapt to maintain best practices.

Mr. Hassan further stated that regulatory reform can boost export competitiveness with efficient, low-cost, reliable transport logistics being central to trade. “In this modern era and increasing competitiveness, we need to develop the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship while embracing the importance of AI. KP has approved its industrial policy 2020, and trade and commerce strategy and the investment strategy is in final stages. Conference on export outreach for rice, meat, poultry, fruits & vegetable and spices was organized recently.”

Mr. Syed Abbas Mehdi, Executive Director, Export Development Fund, Ministry of Commerce, strongly recommended improving the role of trade offices abroad in timely transfer of specific information which can be relevant to the export enterprises. Pakistan has to focus on local SMEs. “We must pay more attention to comparing the average unit price of Pakistani products with the business of our main competitors. The main issue may not be the cost of doing business, but the quality and diversification of the products.”

Pakistan has a lot of talents in IT industry and itstalent pool is unmatched around the world. In order for companies to take advantage of this and promote export growth, it is necessary to implement the convenience of doing business across the government.

Mr. Osman Nasir, Managing Director at Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB), Ministry of IT and Telecom, underlined that IT industry was facing numerous issues with tax authorities at both federal and provincial level, which has basically increased the challenges for the mid to large size companies and multinationals to invest in a country based on the government policies and incentives provided. For the industry facilitation, cross-provincial tax harmonization is essential.

Ms. Annabel Gerry, Development Director, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) Pakistan made her comments on the role of exports for Pakistan’s development trajectory. “Trade openness will be critical, including simple transparent structure with reduced tariffs and clear rules governing the use of discretionary provisions. Greater economic integration region is also clearly presents opportunities for growth and development. And it’s been estimated that liberalizing regional trading merchandise alone could result in three fold increase in trade for Pakistan.”

Mr. Richard Ough, Senior Economist and Team Leader, Macro Stability and Growth, FCDO Pakistan, believes that opportunities can come from service sector in the future,andthe focus on digital is welcome as well. He also stressed the important role of green recovery.