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PRE-BUDGET SYMPOSIUM​ ON EXPORT COMPETITIVENESS AMID COVID19​ IN PAKISTAN

Speakers termed evidence-based policies a key to ensure export competitiveness amid Covid-19 Parliamentary Secretary for Commerce, Textile, Industries and Production Ms Aliya Hamza Malik, Parliamentary Secretory/MNA has said in the aftermath of Covid-19, the federal Government disbursed Rs 75 billion amongst the industrial workers she added that during the first and second wave of the pandemic. Besides, Rs 71 billion were released for the Utility Stores whereas the Prime Minister provided relief packages to factories and industries in the electricity and gas bills. She said this while speaking at Pre-budget symposium and launch of SDPI’s report titled ‘Supporting export competitiveness amid Covid-19 in Pakistan, held by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in collaboration with UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). While highlighting the role of export in Pakistan economy, Ms Annabel Gerry, Development Director, FCDO, Pakistan, suggested that trade openness, decreasing tariff barrier, regional integration and liberalizing regional trade, will be important for Pakistan’s export led industries. She added that reforms in the taxation sector are also required and the export sector needs special attention in these times of the pandemic. Senior Economist and Team Lead, FCDO, Pakistan, Mr Richard Ough, while appreciating SDPI for producing a well searched report, said that the Covid-19 pandemic rendered huge impact on the businesses in Pakistan. Therefore, the government needs to reach out to those sectors of the economy that have been worst hit. Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Executive Director, SDPI, remarked that that the third wave of the covid-19 has struck us in times when we are preparing for the Annual Development​ Program as well as the annual budget​ 2021-22. Thus, he said, it demands a greater focus to be paid on attracting new foreign investors and supporting our local export​ led enterprises​. Likewise, Pakistan should open up for non-traditional markets such as Africa and Latin America to further strengthen its exports. Ms Shandana Gulzar Khan, MNA, was of view that in Pakistan, we lack empirical​ data and research which can support the legislators for bringing innovative changes in the economy. The Covid-19 impacts on trade has been devastating and we need to upscale our export firms for the economic​ revival in the country. Dr Vaqar Ahmed, Joint Executive Director, SDPI, while moderating the session, highlighted that trade costs have increased for both exporters and importers. It is important to unpack some of these trade costs by sector. The pandemic has also led to productivity losses at the exporting enterprises. “19% exporting firms had to temporarily lay off their staff amid pandemic”. He further said that “Temporary trade measures and stringent sanitary and phytosanitary measures by countries abroad have become a new normal”. High information costs and lack of in-person trade exhibitions are making product and market diversification difficult. The online channels of marketing are not affordable for small exporters. The micro and small sized exporters will require policy support to embrace e-commerce. The startup exporters are finding it hard to access trade finance - an area where central bank can support. The government has also withdrawn the tax relief which was earlier provided to startup exporters in the IT sector. Managing Director Pakistan Software Export Board, Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication, Mr Osman Nasir, on the occasion highlighted that the IT sector faces numerous challenges pertaining ease of doing business. He was of view that Pakistan has great potential in the field of IT, freelancing and software sector that could be tapped by right kind of facilitation. Mr Hassan Daud Butt, CEO, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Board of Investment and Trade, Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, emphasized on the improvement of technical and vocational skills of our industrial workers along with digitization. Besides, we need to improve our regional connectivity and Hi-Tech, agro, mines, mineral and gems-based industries should be explored. Mr Syed Abbas Mehdi, Executive Director, Export Development Fund Ministry of Commerce, earlier remarked that the report shared by SDPI, will be surely helpful in the framing of the annual budget 2021-22 and the Export Development Fund (EDF) in the country.

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