No economic turnaround sans political stability: PM

Shehbaz calls for formulating ‘charter of economy’ to put country back on path to progressWarns country could go bankrupt if prudent policies not implementedSays non-productive assets should be taxed

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday called for formulating a “charter of economy” to put the country back on the path of progress, saying there can be no economic stability without political stability in the country.

“I’m asking for a prudent and comprehensive approach for an economic turnaround,” Premier Shehbaz told businessmen during a pre-budget conference in Islamabad.

“That is why I am asking all stakeholders to meet the challenge of time to turn the country’s economy around.”

The premier asked “everyone” to sit down, develop the charter and sign it so that Pakistan could continue an approach of economic development for decades to come.

“This is high time to turn the tide; it is difficult but not impossible,” he remarked.

The conference was held to explore avenues for consensus-based economic measures with all stakeholders on board. It brought together leaders from a wide range of industries on a single platform for a vibrant and interactive debate, in line with the prime minister’s vision of the ‘charter of economy’ and an inclusive economic policy-making approach.

Citing the successful economic growth of Bangladesh, he said being rich with immense resources, human talent and dedication, Pakistan could also achieve excellence through efficiency and modern techniques.

He thanked the experts for giving their input during the over six-hour-long session.

The prime minister said since Pakistan’s inception 75 years ago, the economic development in the initial 25 years and the economic development after that have a “stark” difference.

The premier added that Pakistan’s five-year development programmes were made by top-tier professionals, which allowed the country to progress and Islamabad was way ahead of other nations in the region.

“In the 1990s, the Pakistani rupee had better value than the Indian rupee. Pakistan also showed (India) how can we run the economy on modern lines; we liberalised Pakistan’s economy and India copied it,” he said.

“We should not limit ourselves to proposals only and move ahead and implement them. But it is important to note that without political stability, there can be no economic stability, and vice versa,” he said, stressing the need for a ‘charter of the economy’, which would lead to long-term stability.

“No matter what happens, whichever party comes into power, the goals set in the ‘charter of the economy’ will remain unchanged. It will become our sacred trust, which will not change,” the prime minister said, adding: “We need this.”

Moving on, the prime minister said there was a need to develop rural areas as when people travel from underdeveloped to developed cities, they become a burden on the resources of that place.

“The rural areas, which comprise 65 per cent of Pakistan’s population, should be developed. This can only happen when our children get quality education there,” the prime minister noted.

He added that there was a need to increase the agricultural yield through modern technology as it could change the fate of Pakistan, which would later be exported and help the national exchequer.

He lamented that Pakistan, despite being an agricultural country, was importing three million tonnes of wheat at the moment.

“Such an approach could cause the country to go bankrupt,” he warned, adding there was no dearth of manpower, resources or skilled labour in Pakistan.

Following the 18th amendment, he said, the provinces were empowered and the federation’s powers were curbed. But he noted that the provinces and the Centre would have to work together to develop a comprehensive plan.

“For that, I will need your (businessmen’s) help. I am not saying this for a mere speech. No, we are forming a task force but I will not go into details of it now,” he said

Comparing the country’s IT industry with that of India’s, the prime minister said that the latter generates around $200 billion while Pakistan’s industry was hovering around $2.5 billion. “We must go for special export industrial zones,” he added.

The prime minister said that the government will make well-structured industrial zones. “To increase the exports, the developed zone should be handed over to investors to work on it. We need to fix ambitious targets.”

Talking about the tough decisions being taken by the government, he said that the non-productive assets should be taxed. “The windfall profits in the real estate should also be taxed,” he said.