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Miftah seeks proposals to put economy on track


ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: Newly appointed Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs Miftah Ismail has asked top officials of different departments to come up with proposals to put the economy on a sustainable track.

An official statement issued by the Finance Division said that Mr Ismail met senior officials of finance and revenue divisions on Wednesday.
All divisions were asked to brief Mr Ismail about their workings and suggest measures to improve the health of the economy. Talking to officials, he said his resolve is to strengthen the economy and advance the objective of sustainable and inclusive growth.
He said he will try to focus on enhancing exports and increasing economic growth. He will also make an effort to broaden the tax base and lower the rates, he said.
Meanwhile, representatives of traders and industrialists welcomed the appointment of Mr Ismail. They lauded Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s decision to appoint Mr Ismail because he belongs to Karachi’s mercantile community and has held senior positions in various organisations.
Mr Ismail is expected to deliver better results, particularly as the country faces a swelling trade imbalance, business leaders said. The economy needs some drastic measures that can only be expected from a well-qualified person like him, they said.
Currently, the most pressing issue being faced by the industry is the high cost of doing business. It has not only hurt external trade but also shut down large-scale industrial units across the country, said Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) President Zubair Tufail.
FPCCI’s former president S.M. Muneer said that the foremost issue that Mr Ismail has to tackle is declining exports and soaring imports.
Pakistan Bedwear Exporters Association Patron-in-Chief Shabbir Ahmed told Dawn that economic planners should have acted to increase exports when the country experienced a trade deficit of up to $32 billion in 2016-17.
However, this did not happen because the political scenario remained highly sensitive and uncertain, he said. At least the government should have followed the premier’s relief package of Rs180bn announced early this year to arrest the fall in exports, he added.
But unfortunately, Mr Ahmed said, this did not happen because the five export sectors having the zero-rated status did not get any relief from the incentive package. Payment procedures were announced only last week, he noted.
Pakistan Apparal Forum Chairman Jawed Bilwani said the rulers should have sprung into action long ago as exports declined from $25bn to $20bn in the last four years.
He said imports increased to $52bn in the last fiscal year, aggravating the trade imbalance. Even after adjusting remittances amounting to nearly $20bn, the country faced a current account deficit of around $12bn.
The government should avoid dragging its feet on sensitive issues like the external trade imbalance, Mr Bilwani said.
Due to a delay in the implementation of the relief package, he said, there are fears that the next fiscal year’s trade deficit will be even bigger. Imports are expected to touch $60bn while exports are likely to be around $24bn, he said.
Home textile exporter Naqi Bari lamented that the government should have arrested the fall in exports by ensuring a level playing field for exporters with regard to their counterparts in regional countries.
The biggest issue confronting exporters and industrialists, he said, is the competitiveness of Pakistani goods in the world market. “Our utilities, like power, gas and water, cost more than those in other countries,” he added.
Source: Dawn