ISLAMABAD: Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood has described his experience of “begging” from Saudi Arabia for a financial bailout package as “awful”, vowing to put in his best efforts to make the country stand on its feet.
The adviser on Friday shared his feelings in a meeting convened to set targets for the next 100 days in order to improve the country’s ranking on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index.
“I was upset when we were flying to Saudi Arabia to seek support,” said the adviser while recalling those moments.
“Is this what our life is that we have come to a low where we will beg from others,” Dawood said, adding that a talented nation of over 200 million people deserved far better than this. “It was awful to beg from Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Prime Minister Imran Khan and his economic ministers had gone to Saudi Arabia to seek financial assistance to avoid an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had said the purpose of the visit was to seek investment.
However, things did not move as planned and no major breakthrough could be achieved during a follow-up visit of a Saudi delegation to Pakistan.
Without disclosing the purpose, Dawood said during the last two days government ministers met and showed the resolve to overcome the economic challenges.
Since the expiry of the last IMF programme, Pakistan’s economic condition has been deteriorating and China has so far saved the country from default on its international debt obligations.
Saudi Arabia had also provided $1.5 billion in cash grant in 2014 to help the then Pakistan government shore up foreign exchange reserves.
Before coming to power, Prime Minister Khan had vowed that he would not beg from other nations to run the affairs of the country.
The commerce adviser pointed out that in the 1960s the citizens of West Pakistan treated East Pakistan’s citizens as inferior but today Bangladesh had gone ahead of Pakistan in terms of exports, foreign exchange reserves and employment generation opportunities. “It’s a wake-up call for us,” said Dawood.
The adviser voiced hope that Pakistan would be able to improve its ranking in the upcoming Ease of Doing Business Report 2019. He said he had initially been told by the Board of Investment (BOI) that Pakistan would improve its current 147th ranking by at least 20 points.
“But now I am told that the improvement could be by only four or at best five notches as the World Bank does not accept most of the reforms that Pakistan has introduced.”
Pakistan introduced 70 reforms but the World Bank accepted only three, said the newly appointed BOI Chairman Haroon Sharif.
He said the World Bank’s review team did not accept many reforms due to negative response by survey respondents and some of the reforms were on the border line.
Sharif underlined that the ease of doing business was on top of the prime minister’s reform agenda.
The BOI, in collaboration with governments of Punjab and Sindh, has launched the 100 Days – Sprint-III to Doing Business Reform Plan to facilitate businesses and improve investment climate in the country.
The plan is aimed at simplifying laws and regulations to improve Pakistan’s ranking.
The adviser to the prime minister emphasised that the main objective must be to expand the reforms to different cities. He reiterated the government’s commitment to improving competitiveness by working on public infrastructure, increasing support for development of the private sector and reducing the regulatory and administrative burden on enterprises.
Sharif said in Sprint-III, the BOI and various government departments had planned to implement 45 reforms in different business indicators. The private sector will be consulted at all levels from planning to implementation of these reforms. The BOI will also ensure that the private sector is its partner in this journey.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 6th, 2018.