Pakistan, Karachi, 20 November 2015 – The 3rd Edition of the Pakistan Economic Forum (PEF) was held today at the Habib University Campus in Karachi. The PEF Event which was sponsored by the Pakistan Business Council (PBC) brought together sector experts in the areas of “Energy”, “Logistics & Connectivity”, “Water” and “Macroeconomic Stability & Growth”. The sector experts formed in panels presented their recommendations on how to resolve, in the near and long-term, the issues which are viewed as critical for Pakistan.
The CEO of the Pakistan Business Council, Mr. Kamran Y Mirza welcomed the participants and briefly discussed the objectives of the PBC, its membership, its achievements and its current areas of advocacy. He informed the gathering that the PBC members contributed 23% of Pakistan’s exports, 16% of all taxes collected in Pakistan and their combined revenues were 10% of the country’s GDP.
In his inaugural speech, the Chairman of the PBC Mr. Bashir Ali Mohammad said that Pakistan today is in a unique position to catch up and then overtake other economies in South Asia. He stated that for this to happen it was important to bring about major structural changes in the economy. He appreciated that no one political party or stakeholder could alone push through the critical reforms needed. For achieving this consensus it was therefore imperative that a common National Economic Agenda (NEA) be developed and agreed to by all major political parties. He reminded the audience that the PBC since 2011 had been working on trying to build this national consensus and that the PEF event and the recommendations made by the panels are a part of this consensus building effort.
The Energy Panel Chaired by Mr. Farooq Rehmatullah former Chairman OGDCL and Shell Pakistan and Co-Chaired by Mr. Khalid Mansoor, CEO of Hubco recommended that in order to have a focused strategy for resolving the energy crisis in country, it was important to have a single Energy Ministry. Further the panel called for the development of indigenous energy resources coupled with a national program aimed at improving energy efficiencies. For the Gas Sector the panel recommended that allocation of gas be prioritized with the power & industrial sectors getting first priority. Finally the panel recommended that the DISCOS be privatized and the multiple – seller model be adopted.
The Logistics and Connectivity Panel, Chaired by Syed Salim Raza (former Governor State Bank of Pakistan), and Co-Chaired by Mr. Babar Badat a leading logistics practitioner recommended that the railway was the key to improving Pakistan’s competiveness. The panel recommended that emphasis be on freight as opposed to passenger traffic to maximize the utilization of existing assets of the railways. The panel also called on the government to encourage the private sector under the “open access policy” to invest in rolling stock to run on the existing infrastructure of the Pakistan Railways. Finally the panel recommended that the Railways be converted into a corporation and not be responsible for non-core operations.
The panel on Water, Chaired by Mr. Suleman Khan, called for a fresh commitment to Pakistan’s water resources and a proactive approach to the Indus Basin Water Treaty. The panel emphasized that a national consensus was imperative towards the need for and the construction of more mega water reservoirs in the country. Finally the panel recommended for revival of WAPDA as the vision envisaged for WAPDA in its founding document in 1958 is still relevant.
The Macroeconomic panel, Chaired by Dr. Ishrat Husain (former Governor State Bank of Pakistan and currently Dean & Director IBA) and Co-Chaired by Mr. Atif Aslam Bajwa (President & CEO Bank Alfalah), recommended major reforms in tax policy and tax administration. The panel recommended that the next NFC award provide some sort of incentive for provinces to increase their tax collection. The panel which also had Mr. Shaukat Tarin former Federal Finance recommended major reforms in the Public Sector Enterprises and the financial sector. The panel recommended the creation of an Infrastructure Finance Bank to fund the CPEC projects and a revival of the Iran Pakistan Pipeline.
Concluding the event, the Vice Chairman of the PBC, Mr. Atif Aslam Bajwa, thanked panelists and the participants and reminded them that the day’s event was part of a larger agenda. He informed the meeting that the next event would be held in Islamabad where the political parties would be invited and the National Economic Agenda (NEA) formally presented to them. Pakistan he said had no option other than to strive for and work on the implementation of common NEA.
The Pakistan Business Council is a private sector funded, not-for-profit Company registered under the Companies Ordinance 1984. The PBC was formed in 2005 by 14(now 47) of Pakistan’s largest business groups including multinationals. PBC members contribute 23% of Pakistan’s exports, 16.2% of Pakistan’s tax collection and their revenue is 10% of Pakistan’s GDP. More information about the PBC, its members and its objectives and areas on work can be found on its website: www.pbc.org.pk