CIPE partner Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry organized its first All-Pakistan Chamber Presidents’ Conference in 2009. Since then, the annual conference has become an important venue for bringing the business community from across Pakistan together to discuss pressing economic issues and propose reforms to provide level playing field for businesses to grow.
This year, the conference focused on making the newly-elected democratic government accountable for its promises. The current government is considered pro-business, and has made a number of promises in their manifesto to undertake business-friendly policy reform. Now the business community needs to monitor the progress made by the government in initiating the reform process and the implementation of these reforms. To this end, the Policy Research Institute of Market Economy (PRIME), with the help of CIPE, has started a Manifesto Monitoring Project to track how well the government is keeping its promises.
The business community not only debated the government’s performance on economic reforms, but also shared their concern over lack of implementation in several promised areas. This year Ahsan Iqbal, Minister for Planning and Development, Asad Umar, member of the opposition PTI party and leader of Parliamentary committee on economic policy, and Nareen Jalil, a member of the MQM party, participated at the conference. They all appreciate the need for business community to focus on government accountability right from the beginning.
The Presidents’ Conference ended with a joint declaration from the business community demanding immediate remedial measures in the following policy areas:
- Government should immediately implement a liberalized power production policy, focused on hydroelectric projects, alternate fuels, bio-fuels and LNG.
- Government must encourage waste-to-energy oil derivative projects using rubber, plastics, and used tyres.
- Power generation projects that use river power should be installed immediately to produce cheaper electricity.
- Government should replace its import bill of oil/ fuels with locally produced bio-fuels by at least 15 percent in 3 years.
- Enforcement of low-sulfur diesel production by local refineries to implement Euro 4/5 engine technology locally to reduce import bill of diesel up to 30-40 percent.
- Gas supply contracts with inefficient IPPs (less than 70 percent) should be stopped and where possible renegotiated to redirect natural gas to IPPs that are producing optimally.
- Duration of load shedding should be set on the basis of line losses and revenue recovery position of DISCOS.
- To reduce demand and supply gap, Government must implement Pak-Iran Gas Pipeline project as a top priority.
- Government must prioritize the industrial sector for the energy distribution.
- Government must take initiative to derive an efficient energy mix based on coal, following the international models i.e. 50 percent or above.
2. Revival of Economy
- Parliament must amend the constitution to make agriculture tax a federal subject and increase the tax net.
- Incentive-based tax policies should be promulgated to attract tax payers while the rate of all taxes should be reduced to single digits and indirect taxes converted towards direct taxes.
- Undue delegation of legislative powers to FBR should be revisited.
- Harassment and pressuring the taxpaying community for withholding should be stopped.
- Reduction in government borrowing.
- Reduce dependency on issuing debt instruments.
- Diversification of exports with nontraditional products especially medium -and low-technology sectors in non-traditional markets. Sectors having potential of exports must be incentivized.
- Create an environment to enhance and liberalize inter-regional trade specifically with immediate neighbors like India, Afghanistan and Central Asian states.
- Government must create monetary and fiscal space for improving the business climate in the country.
- Enforcement of law and order controlling mechanisms to ensure a safe business environment across the country.
- A comprehensive strategy must be initiated for the revival of sick units in Pakistan.
- Women must be empowered through all the policies and schemes initiated by federal and provincial governments.
- Government must depoliticize the bureaucracy to ensure the performance based governance mechanism and must ensure the participation of the private sector in governing boards of all the major state owned enterprises.
3. Food & Agriculture
- Implementation of modern and efficient farming techniques and technology across Pakistan.
- Ensuring efficient utilization of resources for agriculture and improvement of water flows with better canal irrigation system.
- Specialized value added packaging and processing should be introduced to increase the export potential of the agro-based produce and live stock.
- Strict mechanism to curtail life stock smuggling must be initiated in order to safeguard the local industry as the live stock is used as basic raw material for many industries as leather etc.
In the next stage, Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry will submit the above declaration to all relevant ministries, the Prime Minister’s office and to leaders of all political parties. In addition to this, PRIME will continue engaging political leadership in debates around the Manifesto Monitoring tool to make it more effective performance measuring tool.
Hammad Siddiqui is Deputy Country Director for CIPE Pakistan.