Tuesday August 16, 2022

PM Shehbaz Sharif underlines need for charter of economy

PM Shehbaz called for enhancing exports and agricultural yield, adding that financial management should be the major components of the plan

By Our Correspondent
June 08, 2022
PM Shehbaz addressing a pre-budget business conference in Islamabad on June 7, 2022. Photo: APP
PM Shehbaz addressing a pre-budget business conference in Islamabad on June 7, 2022. Photo: APP

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Tuesday reiterated his call for a 'charter of economy' and said it was high time all stakeholders joined hands to formulate an unalterable policy framework to help the country achieve agro-based and export-oriented growth.

Addressing a pre-budget conference, he called for enhancing exports and agricultural yield, adding that financial management should be the major components of the plan. The conference was attended by agriculturists, information technology experts, businessmen and investors from across the country, who shared their proposals with the government related to their respective areas.

“All of us will have to move together. The government will need guidance from the stakeholders and experts. The government will form a task force on agriculture and exports for formulating comprehensive plans. Owing to the limited time, the government is focusing on short- and medium-term plans,” he added.

Citing the economic growth of Bangladesh, he said being rich in 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 session. Owing to the non-execution of plans, he said, Pakistan lagged behind while other nations, like India, excelled by following their development plans. He said in 1991, Pakistan’s rupee was stronger than the Indian currency but in the current situation, there was no comparison between the two. “Pakistan lagged behind because the development plans remained un-executed,” he observed.

“It is up to the government to execute the suggestions. We have to convert them into reality. This will not be realized until there is political stability,” the PM maintained and called for providing modern facilities to villages to uplift the living standards of the people and discourage massive urbanization. He said the idea of Daanish Schools also served the purpose of imparting quality education to students of rural areas.

Shehbaz Sharif said agriculture could turn around Pakistan. It could be done by enhancing the yield of cotton, wheat and other crops, and mentioned the country’s $4.5 billion import bill of palm oil, which could be reduced through local production. “The provinces got the maximum chunk of the NFC (National Finance Commission) award after the 18th Amendment and the Federation could make comprehensive plans in collaboration with the provinces. Despite the passage of years, the people of Gwadar are still deprived of drinking water and electricity. Is it how nations are made?” he questioned and said the deep seaport was also losing its depth due to silting which would impact the movement of heavy ships.

Despite being an agricultural country, he regretted, Pakistan would import three million tons of wheat during the current year. He also lamented an unnecessary delay in the completion of the last of four LNG plants initiated by the PMLN government, which should have been completed in March 2020. “We have to give an impetus to the export-based industry. It is all about integration. The government will focus on the enhancement of exports to bring in employment and prosperity,” he maintained.

On foreign policy, he said, the government was repairing ties with friendly countries, including China and Turkey, as their projects had faced unnecessary impediments in the past. “To boost exports, there is a need to establish export industrial zones where land should be provided to industrialists without any cost through a merit-based formula,” he added.

He said he had assigned the Information Technology Ministry a target of US$15 billion IT exports during the next two years as India’s IT exports had touched $200 billion. In the wake of limited fiscal space available to the government, he stressed, the projects of national importance should be executed through public-private partnership, including the exploration of gas and renewable energy.

Mentioning an annual deficit of $2.5 billion by sick entities, the prime minister said the government could save the huge amount by offloading the “dead wood”. Referring to recent financial decisions made by the government, he said, the coalition parties had unanimously taken the decisions in national interest.

He said the government was disbursing Rs2,000 each to deserving families under the Benazir Income Support Programme to support poor people against inflation. Calling for the elite to sacrifice, Shehbaz Sharif hinted at taxing the real estate sector and encouragement of vertical construction to spare land for agricultural use.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail rebutted reports and clarified that the government had no plan to increase the price of petroleum products. “There will be no increase in prices today, and there is no summary or plan to raise the prices," the finance minister said in a tweet after media reports quoted him as saying that petrol prices will move up further. "In the pre-budget seminar, I never even spoke about petroleum prices. Channels running the tickers are doing a disservice to their viewers," the finance minister said.

Earlier, in his address to the pre-budget business conference, Miftah said had the government taken decisions in line with ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan and former Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin's deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the price of petrol would have stood at Rs300 per litre. “The previous government had agreed with the IMF that they would not provide subsidies," he said and lashed out at the PTI government for messing up the economic policies of the country.

According to reports, the government cannot stop at just ending subsidies as it has to impose taxes on petroleum products. “The IMF has asked for 100% withdrawal of subsidy on POL products. Once the subsidy is over, then the government will have to impose taxes and petroleum levy," the publication reported, adding that there is still a subsidy of Rs9.32 per litre on petrol and Rs23.05 per litre on diesel.