Welcoming the establishment of the Economic Advisory Council (EAC), the business advocacy group Pakistan Business Council (PBC) has pointed out that ministers of commerce and industries have not been included in the board and it also lacks representatives of sectors like agriculture, IT, telecom and startups.
“While reviewing the terms of reference (ToR) of the EAC, we noticed that the development of a common Charter of Economy is missing,” PBC CEO Ehsan A Malik said in a letter to PM Shehbaz Sharif.
PBC believes that fundamental reforms cannot be implemented without a cross-party consensus on the economy. Also, without a sound economy, public welfare objectives cannot be achieved.
PBC has developed a framework for the Charter of Economy. “PBC looks forward to working with you and the EAC,” it added. Another critical aspect of the economy, which is not explicitly covered in the ToR, is agronomy.
Agricultural output is critical for food security and it also has a significant impact on the current account and inflation. “We recommend that this sector, which is also a major source of employment and rural welfare be represented in the EAC.”
EAC has leading business leaders from the private sector, who have valuable insight into the economy. “However, we noted that there is no representation of IT/ IT-enabled services, start-ups and the telecommunication sectors. These are businesses of the future and their recommendations would be valuable in future-proofing the economy.”
“The ToR does not cover exports explicitly. Nor does the EAC include the minister of commerce or industries,” Malik said in the letter, which was also sent to Finance Minister Miftah Ismail.
Pakistan’s major challenge is to grow and diversify its exports. “We recommend that the ministers of commerce and industries are included in the EAC. This would also be useful in the analysis of cost and benefit of import protection as the National Tariff Commission falls under the commerce ministry.”
PBC has prepared recommendations for the National Charter for Exports and for reindustrialising the country as well as for the contours of a new industrial policy.
PBC hopes that through the EAC the government will also have an opportunity to begin some of the fundamental reforms in energy, broadening the tax base, addressing state-owned enterprise losses and privatisation, improving public debt management and dealing with the growing pension liability.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2022.