Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal said on Saturday that the government was working to reshape the economy from import substitutions to export-oriented.
In a meeting with the business community here at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), he said the only way for development was to enable the private sector and remove all bottlenecks coming in the way, asserting that the private sector should take the driving seat to move the economy forward.
Ahsan Iqbal said the private sector should be given opportunities to make Made in Pakistan a standard brand worldwide and increase national exports. He said that in the 1960s, exports of Pakistan were $200 million the combined exports of South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand were the same. “Today exports of South Korea are over $600 billion, Malaysia $300 billion and Thailand’s exports are over $267 billion while we have reached only $30 billion during this period,” he said and added that the exports of Turkey had increased from $50 billion in the year 2000 to $288 billion right now.
The federal minister said that all developed countries had made exports-led growth their priority. He agreed with LCCI president Mian Nauman Kabir that political stability was a must for economic development. He said that the country got a rare opportunity in the shape of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). At the time, when no one was ready to invest a single dollar in Pakistan, the Chinese president signed agreements worth $46 billion.
The federal minister said: “The development budget in 2018 was Rs1,000 billion, but when we came back to power in April 2022, it was reduced to Rs550 billion.” He said that local and foreign investors should be encouraged to invest.
He said the country’s tax-to-GDP ratio was only 9.5 per cent, whereas it needed at least 18-20 per cent to ensure sustainable development. “We also need to develop entrepreneurship in the country”, he added. Ahsan Iqbal said: “We need to improve Pakistan’s ranking in the world EODB Index.”
He said, “Now Pakistan has 350 universities and more than 3000-km motorways but, unfortunately, our speed of growth is slow compared to the other countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Bangladesh.”
In his welcome address, LCCI president Mian Nauman Kabir said that an economic council should be established and all political parties and stakeholders should be included to set the right direction.
He said the income of the agriculture sector should be taxed while the government should have currency swap agreements with China, Iran and Russia. He said that the business community should be given representation in government institutions.
Mian Nauman said the CPEC had entered into the second phase with a focus on industrial cooperation, trade, agriculture and socio-economic development. He hoped that this phase would achieve its objectives of accelerating the socio-economic development all across Pakistan through engagement in various fields ranging from agricultural growth to expansion of the tourism industry and enhancing technical educational and healthcare facilities besides joint ventures between China and Pakistan to counter especially the climate change threat.
He said that a considerable delay had been observed in the completion of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) under the CPEC. It is quite obvious that once these SEZs are fully operational, they will give rise to the demand for trained manpower.
He said that technology transfer was one aspect of economic development that had always eluded us. The entire globe had witnessed the economic development achieved by China during the last couple of decades. China improved its technological base with its own resources and experts which made the country competitive in the international market.