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September 7, 2018

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Commerce ministry steps up to revive defunct EDB

LAHORE: The ministry of commerce, led by Razzaq Dawood, adviser to the Prime Minister Imran Khan, has swung into action to revive and reorganise the defunct Engineering Development Board (EDB), garnering support from private sector’s veterans, sources said on Thursday.

After consultation with the stakeholders, the present federal government wants to revive and reorganise the EDB, which was dissolved by the previous government as its unwarranted regulatory role made it an inefficient entity. The dissolution process of EDB continued lately.

“Instead of disbanding it (EDB) fully the new government has now decided to revive it with revised mandate,” a knowledgeable source said.

Now after assuming the charge of PM Adviser on Commerce, Textile, Industry and Production and Investment Dawood has started work to revive the board.

Unlike the previous government’s approach, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf government wants to make it a robust capacity building institution.

It wants to include engineering sector into focus areas with a view to introduce latest technologies, the sources said.

They added that the scope of activities for development of engineering sector would be widened to include civil engineering and infrastructure projects as well.

The reorganised entity would have a public-private-partnership board comprising most competent engineers, professors and entrepreneurs.

The new Engineering Development Board will enhance skills base in services sector too in addition to assisting manufacturing industries.

Unfortunately, the EDB, which developed into a sort of regulator, shed its primary function of capacity building and connecting local companies with the world.

Sources said PM Adviser Dawood is completing his homework and consulting with key industry representatives nowadays.

“He is going on the right path,” an insider said. “There are huge expectations attached with the competent individual like Abdul Razzak Dawood. He can turn the tide as far as initiating a process of putting industrial sector on right track of technology upgrade.”

Sources said integration with the world market is another challenge that needs to be given due emphasis.

An industry expert said the real task is to introduce artificial intelligence (AI) at the manufacturing level.

AI is the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform critical tasks.

“Institutionalising AI will help matching local industry with latest trends in global manufacturing sector,” he added. “It is not an easy task but government should take a lead by commencing work on these lines.”

The expert underscored need of increasing automation in all the manufacturing processes.

A reorganised EDB can promote uses of AI applications at the different levels, said the expert.

A senior employee of EDB said the board has done good work to support local manufacturing units.

The changing automobile landscape is another feather on the cap of EDB as new entrants are going to start manufacturing in the country.

“If we are allowed to work, we are also on course of revolutionising parts manufacturing in the country through strengthening local industry,” the official said, requesting anonymity.

He stressed the need of inducting new blood into the board to make it more powerful institution.

The Engineering Development Board was established in 1995 and continued to work as an apex government body till the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) government decided to dissolve it. The objectives of EDB were to strengthen the engineering sector and integrate it with global markets to make it the driving force for economic growth.

EDB did some efforts in the past by participating in international exhibitions and through creation of databank of industry and benchmarking and training.

It, however, failed to guide industry in cutting the cost of doing business, encouraging competition, supporting local industry and creating enabling tariff environment for export of engineering goods.

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