As the country’s exports continue to shrink, the government’s top economic hierarchy is still sparring over who is to blame.
Officials at the Ministry of Commerce attributed falling proceeds to disproportional weight of fiscal concerns in the policy formulation and fragmented institutional architecture.
They argued that as long as the ministries dealing with production (agriculture/industry) and their exports were placed practically under the finance ministry, the problems would persist.
Pakistan’s merchandise exports fell 14 per cent year-on-year to around $12 billion during July-January FY16, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.
Sources said that when cornered in meetings over weak performance, senior government officials refused to accept the blame for a situation that, they said, was beyond their domain. “The responsibility rests with people who monopolise decision-making,” a disgruntled member of the economic team said, hinting at the finance ministry. “We are excluded from exercises of energy pricing, interest rate determination and even the duty regime in place in the country,” another senior officer retorted in frustration. “All these policies have a direct bearing on the cost of production and trading environment.”
Talking to Dawn, an officer, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said local businesses had to become more competitive to fare better in the global market. “You can only sell if your offer is better than others in terms of price and quality. Today, no one is ready to import junk even for free,” he said, emphasising on putting in place mechanisms of certifications to ensure standards.
A comprehensive strategy condensed in the Strategic Trade Policy Framework 2016-18 had already been presented, but its implementation required release of funds that were earlier approved for various initiatives suggested, he said. “How can we be expected to deliver without resources required to implement initiatives found necessary?’ he quipped.
When contacted, a senior finance ministry official in Islamabad was also reluctant to go on record. One officer said that falling exports were as much their concern as that of other line ministries and departments.
“Yes, there were some delays in the release of funds to the Ministry of Commerce. But the government has given incentives to the textile sector and one reason for approving cuts in power rates was to bring the cost of production down to make it viable for exports,” another official said.
“The file of three-year export policy framework is with the prime minister and funds will be released as soon as he gives the go-ahead,” a source said.