On the same team?


News reports highlighting the communication breakdown between ministries of commerce and textile, that too regarding the crucial MFN debate, are worrying. And it’s no less unsettling that the initiative with India is cause for confusion at the highest levels to this day. Usually, we’d expect landmark decisions involving the eastern neighbour to have the highest level sanction from Islamabad, and as such vigorously debated with all relevant ministries and stakeholders. Also, since the MFN argument revolves around trade, and textile is our prime export earner, the ‘solo flight’ charge leveled against the commerce ministry defies explanation.
The division betrays something far more serious than ad hoc decision making at the top. It shows that not only is there no credible long-term policy, but more surprisingly, there seems little regard for the government’s earning capacity. At the risk of repetition, with textile important enough to have its own ministry, leaving it out of crucial trade talks is akin to maneuvering for political leverage even at the cost of loss of revenue. Already, there has been increasing talk of too many negative spill-overs of the MFN initiative for the win-win hype to be accepted.
Considering the government’s precarious fiscal situation, it ought to have postured towards bolstering manufacturing and industry with the specific purpose of incorporation value addition in the export mix. Not only has no particular patronage been accorded to improving the export base, it is becoming abundantly clear that there are far too many division within the government machinery for trade and revenue generation to be given the attention it deserves anytime soon. And with the other main earner, tax collection, also badly compromised, the middle and lower income groups can look forward to yet more austerity as the bigger boys play politics. While settling this argument, those at the helm should remind all parties that they are on the same team, and should work accordingly.