ISLAMABAD: Business community on Tuesday urged the government to introduce special measures in the forthcoming federal budget for the fiscal year 2022-23 to promote exports and help producing import substitutions to curb twin deficits that had badly hit the country.
They said industrialization was also prerequisite for absorbing growing workforce as well as creating job opportunities for skilled and semi-skilled manpower in the country.
They were addressing the pre-budget business conference, which was organized by Ministry of Finance with an objective to get proposals from the leading industrialists, businessmen, investors and progressive farmers for incorporation in the budget to achieve sustainable economic growth and social prosperity.
Speaking on the occasion, Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry Shaikh Irfan Iqbal proposed the government to focus on producing import substitutions to reduce pressure on foreign exchange reserves.
He said that industrial development was vital for economic growth, exports enhancement and job creation, adding that it would also help reduce trade deficit.
He urged the government to introduce special tax relaxation measures, with a set of support package and bring down the interest rate to promote investment in the country.
He also proposed the government to introduce special measures in federal budget for the promotion of overseas employment and suggested the government to direct banks to provide financial assistance and supports.
The FPCCI head also suggested the government to pay special attention on agriculture sector development in order to achieve self-sufficiency in all food items, imports of which were consuming billions of dollars annually.
He also asked for untapping the true potential existing in IT sector’s, which has potential to fetch over $10 billion to $15 billion annually.
Addressing the summit, Chairman Lucky Group Ali Tabah suggested the government to work on tax reforms and energy sector reforms besides focusing on food security.
He said due to delay in decision making by the last government, national economy suffered a lot, adding that timely interventions and decisions of current government would help to restore and revive local economy.
He urged the government to use agriculture potential of Balochistan province, particularly for cotton production, adding that mining was the other area which could not only impact positively on local population of the province but also help to achieve sustainable growth.
Addressing the pre-budget business conference renowned businessman Mian Muhammad Mansha said that foreign exchange reserves in the country were under pressure and suggested to attract maximum foreign direct investment by facilitating the local as well as foreign investors.
He said that many foreign investors and investment companies were keen to invest in different sectors of national economy and urged the government to facilitate and encourage them for initiating joint ventures.
He also suggested privatization of loss-making entities for improving their efficiencies and turning them into profitable organizations.
Meanwhile, Zubair Motivalla said the national economy was passing through a crucial time and business community would extend all its support to government and proposed the government to pay focus on exports of IT and broadening the tax base and reducing the cost of agriculture sector inputs to reduce costs of farmers.
Speaking on the occasion Progressive grower Amanullah Talpur suggested announcing wheat support price before two months of starting of sowing season.
He also urged the need for ensuring sugarcane crushing on time to enhance wheat production in the country.
He asked for minimizing the role of middleman and introducing rice varieties that required less water. Besides, he also suggested for announcing special measures for cultivation of oilseed to reduce reliance on imported edible oil.
He also proposed the government for ensuring adequate rates of returns on all agriculture produces to growers across the country to maintain food safety and security in the country.
Addressing the conference, Minister for Finance and Revenue Miftah Ismail said the government was determined to present a progressive budget, with special focus on fiscal consolidation to bring down the budget deficit below 5 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The minister said an effective strategy had been evolved to achieve the GDP growth up to 6 percent and control inflation with strategic measures.
He said the incumbent government had to take difficult decisions to put the economy on track, and it could take more drastic measures if required to improve it.
Miftah said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) came into power in a difficult situation, and it would leave it in a much better condition on the completion of its government tenure.
“You are all with us, we will leave it in a better position,” he said while addressing the audience.
The minister said the current government had re-engaged Saudi Arabia, China, the United Arab Emirates and other friendly countries, and it would hopefully help improve the situation in the country.
He said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had realized the situation being faced by the downtrodden segments of the society and accordingly directed the quarters concerned
to make plans for providing maximum relief to them before hiking petrol prices.
Speaking on the occasion, Federal Minister for Commerce, Syed Naveed Qamar said the country’s exports are expected to reach at $31 billion by the end of this year (June 30, 2022). The target of exports for upcoming fiscal year (2022-23) would be fixed at
$ 35 billion, he added.
The minister said that his recent visit to Europe Countries was fruitful as the EU countries not only assured cooperation on the Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP- Plus) but also assured signing agreements for cooperation in future.
He said that promotion of exports was the top priority of the government, so special attention would be given to it. Switching to regional regional trade and introducing product diversification were imperative for increasing exports, he added.
The minister said that the government was also paying special attention to trade diversification in textile and other potential sectors. He said that energy prices would be made regionally competitive and the industry would be offer energy on prices as offered in the region.
“We need productivity in all sectors, including agriculture, and we have to move towards value addition in all potential sector,” minister said.
He said that the government was looking for new markets but for this, innovation and technology would have to be introduced in the industry to bring product competitiveness.
Meanwhile Federal Minister for Food Security and Research Tariq Bashir Cheema said that agriculture was the backbone of the country’s economy. “We have to make changes at the policy level which are essential for the development of agriculture and food sector,” he added.
The minister said that the government should provide resources for agricultural research so that research could be done on seeds and crops.
“We need to work on seeds, fertilizers, water and energy so that the country can be self-sufficient and developed in agriculture and food,” he said. He said that Pakistan used to export wheat and cotton but today “we are importing.”
Minister of State for Petroleum Dr Musadik Malik expressed the firm resolve of incumbent government to effectively tackle the challenges confronted in the gas sector with collective wisdom, putting the country on a consistent path of progress and prosperity.
Under the new policy, he said, a special incentives package would be given to oil and gas exploration companies so that they
could step up their activities in potential areas of the country to discover new hydrocarbon reserves.
Besides, the minister said, the private sector would be encouraged to actively participate in the business of Liquefied Natural
Gas (LNG) by setting up their LNG terminals and distribution system.