President crosses out ‘economic consensus speech’ from his to-do list for 2012


President Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday called for broad-based political consensus on national economic policies, owned by the business community, for their continuity regardless of which government was in power.
He said that after having achieved consensus on political reforms it was time to work towards consensus on economic reforms as “we cannot afford politicization of economic policies of the country”. The President said this during a meeting with the businessmen and entrepreneurs belonging to various sectors, including textile, banking, engineering, chemical, fertilizers, cement, tractors, construction and others at the Governor House here. Briefing about the meeting, Spokesperson to the President Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the President commended the business community for the persistent good performance and achieving record export performance despite the various challenges on internal and external fronts, including the problems of militancy and law and order, power shortages, global economic slowdown and the reluctance of foreign investors to visit Pakistan.
The President, while commenting on the hard economic situation and difficult conditions inherited by the government, said that the country was facing numerous challenges from both within and outside the borders.
He said that Pakistan was a wheat exporting country but the lack of continuity in economic policies put the country in difficult conditions resulting in huge energy shortage besides creating the issue of circular debt for the present government. The President said that the present government has consulted and will continue to take on board the business community of the country on all major economic decisions, such as the federal budget and trade policy matters as the government believes that the input of business community is very important in devising policy that is business-friendly as well as productive. The President said the economic policies of government are mainly aimed at job creation for youth, improving investment climate and resolving energy issues. While commenting on the current power and energy crises in the country, he said that the government was fully alive to the issue and the resolution of the energy crisis was certainly on a high priority for it.
He said that the government was busy in undertaking measures, both short and long term, for easing the energy crises which include the injection of more hydro power into the system through construction of small, medium and large dams in various parts of the country, wind, solar and biomass energy projects, besides the import of natural gas from the neighbouring countries. He said that multinationals and Pakistani joint ventures were now undertaking projects to produce electricity at Thar and the government was also expecting construction of 11 wind power projects to begin shortly. The Spokesperson said that the President in reply to a question regarding loadshedding, advised the government to consider exemption of express feeders of industries in Lahore region from loadshedding.
He directed the Water and Power Minister, Syed Naveed Qamar, who was also present in the meeting, to take steps in this regard. The President, while highlighting various focused areas of the government’s economic policies, said that the government had emphasized regional trade and for this purposes currency swap agreements had been negotiated with a number of countries, including Turkey, Sri Lanka, China, Russia and Jordan. The President said that the currency swap agreements negotiated with various countries would provide huge incentives to the business community to actively explore and enhance business linkages with these countries as the traders would be able to trade in local currencies obviating the need to look for dollars or other foreign currencies to do business.
The Spokesperson said commenting on the government’s policy regarding foreign remittances, the President said that the government have devised incentive packages and policies for expatriate Pakistanis to attract more foreign remittances. The incentivization policies resulted in robust growth of remittances that were 6 billion dollars in 2007 have significantly increased to nearly 12 billion dollars now.
The President invited the business community to participate in the Public Private Partnership projects in infrastructure sector on Build Operate Own (BOO) basis by raising equity through stock exchange. The President assured the business community that the present government will continue to work for the welfare of Pakistan’s business interests and creating business friendly environment in the country. The President urged the business community to take ownership of policies of the government unlike the past when the PPP’s policy to generate 40,000 megawatts of electricity through Independent Power Producers (IPPs) was put in cold storage, which led to the present power shortages in the country. Counting the government’s measures for improving the country’s economy, he said that stock exchange is trading at 12000 points and the credit rating has improved internationally. He said that revenue collection upto March 2012 stood at Rs. 1270 billion as compared to Rs. 1020 billion during the corresponding period of last year reflecting 25% increase. He said the exports continued to register an upward trend despite the high base of last year exports of 30% increase that touched record figure of dollars 25.5 billions.