The government will take exports to record levels by 2023 by providing a better business environment for the industrial sector in the country, said Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood on Wednesday.

While addressing the launching ceremony of the seventh Reform Action Plan by the Board of Investment (BOI), Dawood said that Pakistan’s improving ease of doing business (EODB) ranking would boost foreign investment in the country.

“Pakistan’s rise in the last two years from 148 points to 108 points in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings is a milestone, which will support the growth of foreign investment,” he said.

He said that one of the main areas was to work on improving the country’s EODB ranking to provide a better business environment for foreign and local investment. Besides this, the government is also committed to reducing the cost of doing business.

The adviser said that the country had moved from de-industrialisation to industrial growth under the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government and now all industrial units were moving ahead in manufacturing.

He said that the government had given priority to exports and for that every possible facility would be provided to the industry for increasing production.

The adviser said that the government had prioritised bringing foreign direct investment (FDI) to the country and in this regard, “we want to improve our EODB ranking to provide a better business environment to small and medium enterprises (SMEs).”

Dawood said that in the last financial year, IT exports increased by 47% while shipments of value-added textile products grew by 23%. At present, “we are facing a lot of challenges on the economic and trade fronts and the State Bank is confident of managing the current account and fiscal deficits,” he said.

The PM aide stressed that the Monetary and Fiscal Coordination Committee was fully active to review all the monetary and fiscal matters.

The adviser said that the government had followed the policy of tariff rationalisation to make the domestic industry competitive and had lowered the huge tariff lines and slashed tariffs and duties to zero on raw material for industries.

Meanwhile, speaking at the event, BOI Secretary Fareena Mazhar said that the Doing Business Report for 2021 and 2022 was likely to be released by the end of December this year. “I am very much confident that Pakistan will improve its position further.”

She said that the enabling business environment played a pivotal role in attracting domestic and foreign investment, adding that all over the world, the emphasis was on improving the business climate.

Mazhar said that higher rankings in the World Bank EODB index indicated better regulations for businesses and stronger protection of their rights. “There is an environment where new entrants with innovative ideas can start a business and where productive firms can invest, expand and create new jobs.”

The secretary said that the EODB ranking was instrumental in improving the size of the formal sector and curbing corruption through transparency and accountability.

The BOI official pointed out that the seventh plan was mainly focused on improvement in a firm’s entry regulations, reliability of electricity, tax regulations, trade regulations, creditors’ rights, better property rights, court efficiency, etc, adding that reforms in these areas played a major role in economic development.

British High Commission representative Richard Ough, who was also present on the occasion, emphasised the need for continued progress and government coordination to improve Pakistan’s business environment, in particular through the Pakistan Regulatory Modernisation Initiative (PRMI), and seeing significant reforms such as general sales tax harmonisation.

World Bank Operations Manager Gailius J Draugelis appreciated efforts of the federal and provincial governments for working together on improving the investment climate in Pakistan.

He stressed the need for greater inter-provincial coordination for developing a regulatory framework based on mutual recognition to prevent duplication and reduce the compliance burden on businesses.

(with additional input from our correspondent)

Published in The Express Tribune, August 26th, 2021.

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