SDPI and National Network of Economic Think-Tanks Advocate for Economic Reforms at UN-Hosted Dialogue
ISLAMABAD: The capacity to implement and follow through on reforms committed to IMF is crucial and said that the Network should stand ready to support in terms of ‘human resource and strategic advice on reforms of state-owned enterprises, tax policies, energy sector, rationalizing government expenditures”, said Dr Vaqar Ahmed, Joint Executive Director, SDPI. He was speaking at a policy dialogue titled “Building a Resilient Pakistan Economy: A Call to Action”, organized under the National Network of Economic Think-Tanks by Sustainable Development Policy Institute here today.
He reaffirmed SDPI and National Network of Economic Think-Tanks’s support for economic reforms agenda to the upcoming government, public and private sector. He reiterated SDPI’s emphasis on collaboration with through the network to put forth policy recommendations that can help the new government guide economic policies to keep IMF program on track in view of the reforms objectives and develop a medium-term development agenda. Appreciating the Planning Commission and two provinces on initiating deliberation on 5-year development plans, to which the Network can make significant contribution. He further remarked that “Rampant inflation has demonstrated negative social and economic impacts and called for innovative solutions to reduce the burden on the poorest of the poor, in the domain of social protection policies, leveraging regional agricultural trade to counter regional food inflation”, he said.
He remarked that Ministry of Finance, State Bank and other regulators needs help with effective strategic with investors to leverage opportunities like competitive price that the SMEs, freelancers and exports can offer currently due to the rupee depreciation.
Adil Nakhoda, Assistant Professor, IBA, underscored the need to address cross-border smuggling, monetary policy changes to develop resilience against dollar, energy sector viability and management of circular debt to make adjustments in agreement to the IMF deal. He highlighted that despite the textile sector contributing a significant export volume, the products are low value. This is a common issue across export sectors of Pakistan and emphasized the need for high-value product diversification, increase technical capacity of industries, international exposure to develop insight of global market demand, better trade facilitation through improved trade policies catering to all export sector and not just a few. He further suggested introducing paperless cross border trade and digitalization of trade sector to increase efficiency and save costs.
Wajid Iqbal, CEO, Pakistan Association of Large Steel Producers remarked that improving the structure of regulatory bodies and building their human development capacity to match global standards is vital to create the enabling environment being stressed on. He further highlighted the unequal preferences and subsidies given to some economic sectors and urged they must be addressed to provide equal opportunity to all.
Sumera Abbassi, CEO, TiE Islamabad, emphasized the active role of venture capture funds in mobilizing finances for SMEs. She remarked that there is need for investor education programs to create awareness among investors about the actual investment potential in Pakistan and urged for measures to encourage high-net private companies and investors to increase investment flow. She also suggested that startups should think of out of the box solutions and efficient mechanisms to save cost to develop resilience to inflationary conditions.
Ahad Nazir, Head Centre for Private Sector Engagement, SDPI expressed that the economic system has demonstrated different outcomes to similar shocks due to structural inefficiencies and lack of institutional memory. He called for rectifying issues like non-productive use of resources as seen in the case of women labor and said that change management needs to be swiftly adjusted for achieving an efficient transition from agricultural to service based economic model.
Dr Abdul Salam Lodhi, Professor of Economics, BUITEMS, Balochistan, stressed restructuring economic policy to boost industrial development and sustainable, self-sufficient agriculture. He highlighted that an enabling environment for industries and exports is lacking due to chronic mismanagement and poor governance. He urged for good governance to prevent hoarding, smuggling, unfair price hikes, and expanding transparent tax net. He further suggested gradual reduction in interest rates, enhancing human capital, and transitioning to renewables to manage the energy price inflation being faced currently.
Dr Saima, GCU Lahore, highlighted that 85% of the informal economy is associated with women labor and their lack of resilience to economic and political externalities. “Cultural poverty is limiting individual agency of women despite them being the largest segment of Pakistan’s economy”, she added. Government should increase financial access, enhancing capacity and awareness of business ecosystem and address the systematic cultural barriers, she stressed.
Fahad Sheikh, Co-founder PAFLA accentuated the need for leveraging technology for enhancing exports, promote globally competitive niches and skills especially in SMEs sector and develop enabling environment to enhance the existing skills and capacity to boost exports. He added that easy of doing business is crucial to remain competitive in international markets and there is much to be done when it comes to financial inclusion, ease of doing business to tap the full potential of SMEs and freelancing exports.
Qurat-ul-Ain, CEO, Ain Consulting Ltd., pointed out that regulatory policy inconsistencies and complexities and political uncertainty are affecting the business environment, thus discouraging investment in the country. Delay in payments is also contributing to distrust. She further said that simplifying the regulatory frameworks can support start-ups to boom and urged for reducing excessive state control on export markets.