"Economic challenges remain but the worst is over"


Express May 04, 2010

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has assured the business community that the government is fully committed to making the environment business-friendly.

Trade, textile, investment, energy and other policies are aimed at attracting more participation from the private sector, he said. Gilani said this while chairing a meeting of the Business Persons Council (BPC) at the Prime Minister’s House on Tuesday. The government recognises the private sector as the engine of growth and is taking necessary policy measures to unleash its full potential, Gilani said.

He said the annual budget is the most important policy as it sets priorities of the government for the coming year. Macroeconomic stability has been restored, manufacturing has picked up and exports are on the rise as a result of the policies of the present government over the last two years, he said. “Economic challenges remain but the worst is over,” highlighted Gilani. He acknowledged that the business community in this country works in the most challenging environment.

Energy shortage, high cost of doing business, security of life and property are some of the issues that confront the business sector, Gilani said. He assured that the government is committed to resolving these problems. Welcoming suggestions of the business community, the prime minister assured them that the government would take the BPC’s suggestions into consideration while formulating policies. He observed that there is no point in making policies without taking the beneficiaries on board.

He said consultation and consensus are the hallmark of the present government and through this policy, the government has addressed long-term structural issues such as the 7th NFC Award, 18th Constitutional Amendment and very recently Energy Roadmap. He asked Finance and Revenue Adviser Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh to consider the budget proposals seriously and ensure extensive consultation with the business community. Sheikh told the meeting that interaction of the finance ministry officials with the Business Advisory Council representatives was very fruitful and encouraging.

Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry’s (FPCCI) representative Tariq Saeed said that the discussions would help improve tax collection and expand the industrial sector, consequently decreasing unemployment. “Existing power plants should be renovated to meet the immediate energy needs,” he suggested. He said “We are losing Rs230 billion annually due to the energy shortage and $2.3 billion in the form of exports.” Saeed said that in their proposals they suggested that the agriculture-based industry should be promoted in underdeveloped areas where workers are trained only in agriculture work.

They said that entire focus had been on the agriculture sector but now the government should give preference to the other sectors as well like the engineering sector. They also suggested that banks need to revise their mark-up policies according to area and nature of the industry. They were against the government’s decision that public offices and banks should be closed on Saturdays. They also demanded that the procedures for establishing new industry should be simplified.

The business representatives also proposed that the mining industry should be encouraged as precious stones could enhance exports and earn foreign exchange.

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