Joint work to resolve economic issues: President

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: While talking to the Presidents of Chambers of Commerce and Industry from across the country, President Dr Arif Alvi has said that the parliament, judiciary, government and business community needed to work in tandem to identify the issues faced by the nation and resolve them with commitment and efficiency to bring about political, economic and financial stability in the country.

He said all those voices who were predicting the derailment of the political and democratic process needed to be discouraged wholeheartedly. He said democracy in Pakistan should be sustained and strengthened with each passing day. The President expressed these views while talking to the Presidents and representatives of 54 chambers of commerce and industry from across the country, including the representatives of women’s chambers of commerce, small and medium chambers of commerce, APTMA, P@SHA, Pakistan Poultry Association, and the Stock Exchange, here at Aiwan-e-Sadr, on Wednesday.

Representatives of Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Sarhad and Rawalpindi chambers of commerce, and the pharmaceutical sector were also present during the meeting. Speaking on the occasion, the President said that Pakistan was facing an economic situation which necessitated the holding of general elections in agreement and consensus of all the political stakeholders to elect a fully representative government empowered and mandated to take critical and difficult decisions and provide solutions to the problems and issues faced by the nation on the political, economic and financial fronts.

The President said that signing the agreement with the IMF was an important decision which was likely to help the country resolve its financial and economic difficulties, and added that a representative government mandated by the people could sell the difficult decisions to the people of Pakistan. He termed the political stability in the country as the basic and most vital element for creating financial and economic stability and stressed the need for all political stakeholders to promptly start negotiations and deliberations on setting out an agreed-upon date for holding general elections.

Replying to a question, the President appreciated the establishment for its intent to avoid involvement in political affairs and stressed upon the political forces to jointly grab this opportunity and resort to democratic means of resolving the issues faced by the nation and lead it toward progress and prosperity.

The President said most of the country’s import bill comprised of petroleum products used for energy production and transportation, adding that this cost could be substantially reduced by adopting an all-encompassing energy, water, and gas conservation strategy, which was implementable and could deliver results with the commitment and support of the business community.

He also emphasized the shifting of business and industrial processes to green energy, like solar and wind, to not only reduce the import bill but also to protect the environment. He said there was no dearth of ideas in Pakistan but there seemed to be a communication gap between decision-making authorities, target populations, and agencies responsible for their implementation.

The President stated that Pakistan took the right decisions at the right time to contain and counter the COVID-19 pandemic and through the coordinated efforts of all the stakeholders, we were able to defeat the pandemic in an effective manner as compared to regional as well as other countries of the world.

He said by adopting a similar approach, we could identify the issues confronted by the nation on the political, economic and financial fronts, find out consensus-based and fully sold-out solutions, and implement them with full commitment in an efficient and proactive manner, which would help in coming out of our present economic problems. The President said the women’s chambers of commerce should provide leadership to women entrepreneurs and start-ups and help them in securing loans from the banks to start and set up their own businesses.

He said although the banks had promised 100% disbursement of loans to all the women applying for loans, unfortunately only 5% of the loans set out had been availed. He asked the women’s chambers of commerce to lead the way and facilitate women in securing loans to promote their businesses.

He also emphasised the need to utilize the skill training programs launched by Meta to help women gain marketable skills and sell their products and services online. He said Pakistan needed to promote the cottage industry in the country, especially at the grassroots level, adding that unlike the prevailing thinking, the scope of the cottage industry had expanded to include gemstone and diamond processing, chip design, and other sophisticated fields.

The President sought the focus of the business community in five areas of importance, including the provision of a harassment-free work environment to women working in businesses, factories and industries, adding that women’s inclusion and financial empowerment was the most important step for the economic growth of the country. He said differently-abled persons, who made up about 10 per cent of the population, were not included in the economic mainstream and stressed upon the business community to create customized and productive jobs to give them gainful employment which also added value to the employers.

He said the business community’s active involvement was needed for reducing the burden of mental health issues which was at 24% in Pakistan, reducing the mortality rate due to breast cancer, and bringing out-of-school children to the school system. He expressed his dismay over the dismal situation of the primary school enrolment rate of children in Pakistan, which as per the World Bank’s latest report was only 68% in Pakistan, whereas in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, it was over 98%.

He said it was a grave situation and all stakeholders including the business community needed to take decisive steps to ensure the enrolment of children. While commenting on the proposals of the business community, the President said that the Trust Laws of the country needed to be amended to facilitate the registration and operation of Trusts easier which would help in the promotion of business in the country. He stressed early resolution of the issues faced by the business community amicably and prudently to improve the prevailing situation. He said a consultative process should be started as soon as possible to help the business community to resolve their issues in terms of taxation, import clearance and opening of Lines of Credit.

During the meeting, the representatives of the business community shared their concerns regarding the economic situation of the country and suggested solutions to overcome the present financial issues. The President was also informed by the business community about the non-clearance of raw materials used to make life-saving drugs at the country’s ports, which according to one member of the business community, if not handled promptly would lead to the shortage of essential and life-saving medicines in the country.