ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday announced a massive, and much-awaited, Rs 180 billion package to help increase the country’s faltering exports over the next five years.
The package will cover the country’s five major export-oriented sectors, namely textiles, leather, carpets, sports and surgical goods. The textile sector, however, is tipped to be the main beneficiary of the package.
Addressing the country’s leading exporters at an event organised at the Prime Minister’s Office, Prime Minister Nawaz said the package would strengthen the country’s economy manifold by increasing its exports. The event was attended by the ministers of finance and commerce and other cabinet members. Earlier in the day, the premier held a detailed meeting with the exporters’ representatives.
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Pakistan’s exports have been continuously falling since 2012-13 when they amounted to $24.5 billion. The country closed the last fiscal year 2015-16 at an eight-year low level of exports, which dropped to $20.8 billion despite preferential access to European markets.
With remittances in the first half of the ongoing fiscal year also down 2.27%, economic managers feel there is a need to boost exports to avoid pressure on foreign exchange reserves.
Speaking to the exporters, Prime Minister Nawaz was quick to blame previous governments. He pointed towards the economic situation of the country in 2013 and recalled that Pakistan was on the verge of default.
However, exports have been on a decline since the PML-N government took over, a phenomenon the government blames on the global economic slowdown.
The premier said although limited funds were available when his government took over, through Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s ‘sincerity of purpose’, all hurdles were removed and several mega power projects were in different stages of completion.
“With hard work, dedication and commitment, the country’s economy is now stable and on the rise,” he said, stressing that his government is committed to ending load-shedding and lowering tariffs to make Pakistani products more competitive.
The premier said Rs110 billion have been allocated for acquisition of land for the Bhasha dam that would produce 4,500MW of cheap electricity. He said the performance of Pakistan Railways has improved and its upgradation would increase the number of passengers and goods being transported while slashing travel duration.
Prime Minister Nawaz said electricity tariffs have declined by 26% since his government came into power. He said 10,000MW would be added to the national grid by 2018 and generation would go up to 30,000MW over the next few years.
The premier said Pakistan’s fiscal deficit has declined to 4.6% and would go down further by next year, adding that inflation is also down and the stock exchange index is on a record high. He also vowed to bring an end to poverty, illiteracy, and backwardness in the country and generate employment opportunities.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, meanwhile, said the government took a number of initiatives to increase exports and mentioned zero rating of five value-added sectors, refund of sales tax up till June 30, 2016 were cleared, besides lowering of electricity tariffs and largest ever package for the agriculture sector. He said owing to government’s measures, leading international financial institutions have noted the remarkable strengthening of Pakistan’s various economic sectors.
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Minister for Commerce Khurram Dastgir said the government had successfully tackled all the challenges ranging from energy shortage to terrorism. He said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor was now a reality and with completion of various development projects, the country would emerge fully prosperous. He noted that under the PM’s dynamic leadership, the export sector had witnessed unprecedented surge.
FPCCI President Zubair Tufail lauded the measures taken by the government for the business sector and said this was reflective in reports of international organisations and the stock exchange index. He hoped that owing to the dynamic measures, Pakistan’s industrial and business sectors would further flourish and the people would re-elect Prime Minister Nawaz in the 2018 general election.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2017.
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