PM Abbasi announces multibillion development package for Nowshero Feroz district

NEW JATOI (APP): Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi Saturday announced a comprehensive development package worth above Rs 2.5 billion for the infrastructural uplift of Nowshero Feroz district for the provision of gas, electricity and the construction of roads.

Addressing a public gathering here, the prime minister said a whooping Rs 1.5 billion grant would be spent for provision of gas and electricity to various areas of the district and another Rs 1 billion for construction of roads.

The prime minister was accompanied by Governor Sindh Muhammad Zubair, federal minister Ghulam Murtaza Jatoi, minister of state Jam Kamal and other party leaders.

The announcement of the mega development projects for the district of opposition-led Sindh province prompted the already charged gathering to chant full throated slogans in support of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the prime minister.

The prime minister also announced the launch of his health insurance card scheme to support medical treatment of the poor families besides nodding to the party leaders’ demands of establishing a food processing plant, a railway stop and a grid station in the area.

The prime minister also approved a fund of Rs 200 million for a town committee on the request of a party leader in the area.

“This is the difference between the mindset selling the jobs and the one giving rights to the rightful people,” he commented criticizing the apathy of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party to the issues of the people in their province.

Prime Minister Abbasi said that the country could only achieve progress through democracy and recalled that the Charter of Democracy (CoD) signed between former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and late Benazir Bhutto had committed to bring an end to political victimization and respecting the public mandate.

Expressing his dismay over the non-adherence to the CoD, he called for carrying forward the same commitment as only democracy could guarantee the stability of the economy, provision of jobs and justice.

He told the public gathering that the government accepted the July 28 verdict of the Supreme Court and new prime minister was nominated by the party with no aspirant in the party for the slot.

Such a beautiful democratic transition put to rest all the rumors of disintegration of the party and desertion by the parliamentarians, he added.

“The decision of July 28 was indeed a great ordeal but it was also a victory of democracy,” the prime minister remarked.

He said only the PML-N and Nawaz Sharif ensured the integration of the country as he was the one who proved his agenda of public welfare and development through his actions, not merely words.

He said after 18th amendment, like other provinces, the resources for Sindh too had been doubled but unfortunately those were going to corruption showing the failure of the provincial government.

To the public demand of job opportunities, the prime minister said it was the issue across the country but the federal government was toeing a policy of giving jobs to the rightful aspirants on merit, not by minting money.

He assured the people that China Pakistan Economic Corridor would help create employment opportunities and stabilizing the national economy.

However, he reiterated that the issues would continue lingering on until the resources are duly utilized for public welfare, not the political interests.

Prime Minister Abbasi recalled that it was always the Nawaz Sharif-led government that enhanced the country’s road network as currently motorways were being constructed across Sindh.
He told the gathering that the incumbent government completed the Kachi Canal project costing Rs 28 billion that had been lingering on for the last three decades.

He said a vast stretch of the canal passed through Punjab province without giving any share in the water that had been purely dedicated to irrigate thousands of acres of land in Balochistan.

About the power generation, the prime minister said the government had produced around 10,000 megawatt during last four years against only around 20,000 megawatt generated since inception of Pakistan.

The prime minister said the federal government believed in granting due rights to the provinces as all of their issues were discussed and resolved in Council of Common Interests leaving no province to complain about the distribution of resources.

Prime Minister Abbasi said the world had now admitted that Pakistan’s economy was getting stronger against the previous notions about the country being on the verge of bankruptcy.

He said the growth rate now stood at six per cent and the development projects executed by the government would not only resolve the current problems but would also cater to the future needs of the country. The projects of gas and electricity would address the energy issue till 2030 and the road network would suffice the needs for the next 50 years.

He said consequent to the joint efforts by the government and sacrifices by the security forces, Pakistan had defeated the terrorist forces and would eliminate the residues as around 0.2 million soldiers were still engaged to fight the menace.

The prime minister said Pakistan’s security had defeated the terrorism which could not be tackled by the whole world. Recalling a terror attack on a shrine which took place in Balochistan on Thursday, the prime minister said the terrorists chose to hit such peaceful places out of their inability to target any other place.

He also asked the people to draw comparison between the peace situation in Karachi of today and four years ago and termed it a gift of the PML-N and Nawaz Sharif.

After announcing the development package, the prime minister asked the people to give their verdict for the next five years in the elections scheduled to be held after some nine months.

“The political decisions are not taken in courts and on streets. Neither they should be. This is democracy,” he remarked urging the people to compare the ongoing five-year tenure of the PML-N and the one completed by PPP earlier.

Earlier, the prime minister also lauded the political career of Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, Ghulam Murtaza Jatoi, former Sindh chief minister Arbab Ghulam Raheem and Syed Zafar Ali Shah, hoping they would continue upholding the positive political traditions in future too.

Time to establish ministry of private sector facilitation

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan exported goods and services worth $25 billion in fiscal year 2011 and in FY17 exports stood down at around $21 billion.

Exports-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio is also low if parallels are drawn with comparable countries. Investment-to-GDP ratio has hovered around 15% over the past decade while the ratio has been over 30% in India since 2005.

Pakistan’s ranking in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business indicator has dropped from 77th in 2007 to 141st in 2017 among 185 economies. Foreign investment has remained considerably low since 2006 except for a recent surge due to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

This is happening despite many export packages and initiatives to boost private sector competitiveness. Evidently, the current public sector apparatus is inadequate and unable to deliver results for development of the private sector.

First, the mandate of development and facilitation of the private sector is scattered across different ministries and organisations. Trade policy, industrial policy, investment policy, information technology policy, taxation policy, monetary policy, energy policy, sectoral regulatory policies and other such frameworks are developed in isolation, yet they deal with the same objective.

One would suggest establishing a coordinating committee or a body. Indeed, there are many – without delivering the intended results.

Second, the institutional and human resource capacity in public sector organisations is grossly constrained. Third, many of these organisations were set up between the 1970s and 2000, but needs of the private sector have totally changed now.

The investment made abroad by Pakistani diaspora and domestic investors’ investment in other countries may be greater than the investment committed under CPEC. Now, the question arises as to what sort of public apparatus is needed to enhance exports and mobilise private sector investment in Pakistan.

New ministry

The countries which have increased exports and private investment phenomenally had one thing in common: the quality of the state and its institutions supporting the private sector. The coordinating and intellectual capacity of the state machinery has played a crucial role in Japan, South Korea, China, Singapore, and in the western world.

In Japan, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and in other countries well-designed and empowered planning agencies steered private sector development agenda. Hence, there is an urgent need to establish a Ministry of Private Sector Facilitation in Pakistan.

This ministry should be established by merging the Ministry of Commerce and Textile, Ministry of Industries and Production, Board of Investment, some attached departments of the Ministry of Information Technology and almost half of the Planning Commission. Provincial governments may follow suit after piloting at the federal level. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has recently reorganised a few ministries/divisions and hence the establishment of the Ministry of Private Sector Facilitation should be considered as the continuation of efforts to deliver services to the citizens.

Abbasi can leave an ever-lasting legacy by developing an innovative, effective and professional setup to support the private sector. Needless to say, the public sector is usually quick in establishing new organisations, but the government hardly designs it in a way that it can meet the intended objectives.

Proposed design of the ministry

First, the basic function of the ministry should be facilitation of the private sector. The public sector’s main job is now to create a right ambiance for the private sector to thrive. Instead, many of the facilitation bodies turn themselves into self-proclaimed regulatory bodies and then create hurdles in the way of the very sector they were created to promote.

The Engineering Development Board is a classic example of how a body created to promote the engineering sector actually hindered its growth.

While creating the Ministry of Private Sector Facilitation, a thinking process should be undertaken to avoid the usual life cycle of public sector organisations which starts with big ambitions and ends with inefficiencies and over-regulation.

The Planning Commission’s Framework of Economic Growth emphasised in 2011 to focus on the software of economic growth. This framework can become a guiding document for the new ministry.

Second, the mandate of the ministry should be to improve business environment, give policy recommendations on taxation, monetary matters and exchange rate dynamics, manage public-private dialogue, facilitate domestic and international trade, reform complex, archaic and cumbersome laws and regulations, and sponsor research on entrepreneurship, innovation and technological development.

The ministry should steer policy reforms to promote competition and innovation. These are just references to some of the important aspects of the scope of the proposed ministry and a detailed working is required to include the modalities and functions.

However, it would be essential that no taxation measure is finalised without the consent of the new ministry. The ministry will have to pay special attention to young entrepreneurs, start-ups, technology-oriented companies (not just information technology), innovative business ideas and women entrepreneurs.

Third, top quality human resource from both public and private sectors should be engaged in the ministry. Secretary of the ministry should be selected through open competition between civil servants and private sector professionals.

A panel consisting of eminent private sector representatives, senior bureaucrats, economists and politicians should select the secretary for three years. The secretary should be given all powers of the chief executive officer.

Fourth, it would be important to address the loopholes and inefficiencies in the public financial management system for the proposed ministry.

Single-line current and development budgets should be given to the ministry with all powers of appropriation and expenditures in order to steer the implementation of its initiatives.

The ministry should have a competent chief financial officer and chief strategy officer to deal with financial and planning matters. Merger of half of the Planning Commission with the ministry will provide in-house and decentralised capacity to steer the development policy.

A strong accountability mechanism should also be developed to scrutinise financial management and service delivery by the ministry. An independent panel of professionals and politicians should be assigned the task to periodically review the performance and provide direction to the ministry.

Fifth, the ministry should undertake third-party review of all attached departments/bodies of the ministries/divisions which are being merged. There are many redundant public sector organisations such as the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan, commercial attaches and Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority which need to be either disbanded or completely overhauled to meet modern needs of the private sector.

Govt, chambers should deliberate further

Lastly, policymakers, academicians, think tanks and chambers of commerce and industries should deliberate on this issue because the country needs radical steps to reorganise the public sector to deliver the services needed by the private sector. Otherwise, we would continue to lament slow growth in exports and decline in private investment.