For any country, exports are a major indicator of their productivity. Cement production, on the other hand, is an indicator of how well is the construction industry progressing. Both of these figures, especially in the context of the latter have shown an uptick in recent years pointing towards a gradual improvement in the economic health of our country. Cement manufacturers in the country have claimed that cement sales have increased multifold on the back of strong domestic consumption and exports.
With the Imran Khan-led government championing the construction sector as the panacea for the economic morass the country finds itself in, the All Pakistan Cement Manufacturers Association (APCMA) say that local sales during July-April 2020-21 surged by 18.87% to 40.249 million tonnes from 33.859 million tonnes in the same period during the last fiscal year. Exports also improved to 8.025 million tonnes during the first 10 months of the ongoing fiscal year from 6.696 million tonnes during the same period in the last fiscal year – up by 19.84%. The top destination for Pakistani cement has been to developing and less developed countries such as those in East Africa, Sri Lanka, Yemen and Mozambique. Afghanistan is a major export destination as well, accounting for around 50% of all our cement exports. According to the APCMA, cement dispatch continues to increase even during Ramazan when the construction sector slows down.
While on paper and per the numbers, this all sounds like good news for the economy, we have to be careful about the true cost that we have to pay for this progress. Unregulated and unrestricted construction has caused problems before in our country, while massive cement manufacturers were touted as the reason for creating environmental pollution and even causing a historical pond to run dry. If we are not too careful, our lust to stuff our pockets with cash could leave us facing a disaster in a very different and real form.