ISLAMABAD, Jun 7 (APP): Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Professor Ahsan Iqbal on Wednesday said Pakistan was in dire need of a ‘decade of political stability’ to turnaround the national economy and achieve the consistent growth trajectory.
“There is a big opportunity for us to streamline the internal system, ensure political stability in the country and create a decade of stability as economic policies do prove result-oriented before ten years,” he said while addressing an international conference, organized here by the Policy Research Institute (IPRI) in collaboration with We News.
The conference titled “Developments in the Middle East: Lessons and Opportunities for Pakistan” was also addressed by former Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, Ambassador Ali Awadh Asseri; Pakistan’s former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Vice-Admiral Hasham bin Siddique; Dr Robert Mason, Non-Resident Fellow at Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington; Professor Mahjoob Zweiri Dir Gulf Studies Programme, Qatar University; Ambassador Javed Hafeez, former envoy of Pakistan, and Azfar Ahsan, former Minister of State & Chairman Board of Investment (BOI).
During 2013-18, the minister recalled that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government had effectively tackled the confronted issues of load-shedding, terrorism, security and economy besides bringing around $ 29 billion investment under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects.
“But unfortunately the development-journey was punctured in 2018 general elections in the shape of artificial change,” he added.
Seeing the unprecedented national development during the PML-N last tenure, Ahsan Iqbal said the Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC), an international ranking company, had predicted that Pakistan would be standing among the top 20 economies of the world by 2030.
He was of the view that all stakeholders, remaining within their domains, should think how they could align themselves with the common vision of Pakistan to move forward towards the development and prosperity, adopting the ‘collaborative and harmonized mode.’
The minister said there was a great scope for Pakistani to increase cooperation with Middle Eastern countries and get investment, technologies and expertise in diverse fields like agriculture, livestock, information technology, human resource development and mining, which would be beneficial for increasing the country exports.
He said the region was witnessing a fast-pace development projects for which the skilled manpower needed, and accordingly the incumbent government had recently established a Task Force to align Pakistan’s workforce and youth with the market-based demands.
According to an estimate, the minister said the trade volume between GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) and Asian countries would exceed the figure of $600 billion by 2030.
He said Pakistan had strategic partnership with Middle Eastern countries, China, European Union, United States of America and GCC states, adding Pakistanis living in different parts of the world were significantly contributing to the national economy by sending home valuable remittances.
Commenting on Pakistan’s strategy to achieve sustainable development, the minister informed the conference participants that the Planning Minister had launched the ‘5Es Framework’ to turnaround Pakistan after the National Economic Council (NEC) approval on Tuesday.
Shedding light on each component of the strategy, he said the 5Es Framework was centered around five key pillars.
The first E, he said, was aimed at increasing exports as the country’s future heavily depended upon how fast it become export-led economy. “Our poor performance in exports is the principle reason for our current crisis. We need an export emergency. This E in particular focuses on initiatives that will tackle the chronic boom-and-bust cycles and stabilize the economy.”
Ahsan Iqbal said the second E was about E-Pakistan which would ultimately help Pakistan “Building a Knowledge Economy” with a mission to harness the immense potential of IT and Telecom exports. “This pillar aims to lay the foundation for a robust knowledge-based economy in Pakistan. Accelerating the digitization ecosystem and expanding the IT sector are key objectives to foster socio-economic growth.”
The minister said that the third E was about Environment & Climate Change which focused on water & food security.
“This E prioritizes institutional, legal, and policy objectives for mitigating its impact. Addressing water and food security challenges is a key focus area, ensuring the sustainability and resilience of the nation.”
Explaining the forth E that related to Energy & Infrastructure, he said the government wanted secure, sustainable and affordable energy for all including the industry and other development sectors.
Talking about the 5th E which was about Equity & Empowerment, Ahsan Iqbal said its primary focus was to “Leave No One Behind,” empowering youth, women, persons with disabilities, and the least-developed regions of the country.
“The launch of 5Es marks a significant milestone in Pakistan’s journey towards sustainable economic growth and development. The 5Es Framework sets the stage for transformative change, addressing key challenges and capitalizing on opportunities for the betterment of the nation and its citizens,” the minister remarked.
The minister said the government had also presented “Pakistan Outlook-2035” before the NEC, apprising it if the country continued with the same approach of ‘business-as-usual’, it would become $570 billion economy by 2035. But, if the country chose the ‘transformational and aspirational’ path with 6-8 per cent, it could become $1trillion economy by doubling the volume, he said, adding “So choice is ours whether we want to become $1 trillion economy or $570 billion economy.”
He said if things went on usual, the poverty would increase 40 per cent and if transformational path was followed, the poverty would fall by 15 per cent.
President IPRI, Ambassador Dr Raza Muhammad, while opening the conference, underscored the need for greater cooperation with the Middle Eastern states, and highlighted the ongoing regional socio-political developments as the way ahead.
He said that focusing on inter-regional developments is a must, and Pakistan can learn and benefit a lot. He cited the examples of Europe and pointed out as to how from deep-rooted animosity, the region has moved towards a geo-political union in the form of 27-member European Union. He said that with Mideast coming together and burying the hatchet, Pakistan has some lessons to learn.
Ambassador Raza said that human resource management and Information Technology start-ups are some of the avenues where Pakistan has immense potential in the new era. These muscles can be used for unshackling the society and move towards friendly business environment.
Ammar Masood, Chief Editor WE News, said that promoting dialogue in a polarized society and opting for greater regional cooperation are avenues that are the need of the hour.
While flagging the potential of Pakistan in the Middle East, he said that new areas of cooperation can be explored, and stated that dialogue serves as cornerstone for building bridges to dispel misconception.
He also illustrated that trade and development in interstate relation, as well as cultural cooperation as a soft power are in need of being harnessed. Masood also brought to fore the dynamics of truth, integrity and impartially as values that go on to cement the society with the world outside for a promising partnership.
Ali Awadh Asseri, former Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, talked about the evolution of Saudi Arabia into a modern developed state under the vision of Muhammad Bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, and said that Vision 2030 is transforming not only Saudia but also the region at large.
He said that Riyadh is moving towards reconciliation with Iran, and termed it as a promising development. He said that the new environment is conducive for trade and collective prosperity.
He pointed out three developments that is changing the region, and they are China emerging as a major investor in the region, which has come with political muscles; Saudi Arabia experiencing a complete socio-economic transformation under MBS vision and diversifying its relationship with the US and China.
Asseri said that China and the Arab states want the United States to guarantee security in international commerce in the region, and there is no point in reading conflict between major powers in the region.
He said that around $250bn is being invested in the region, and China is one of the largest trading partner of Saudi Arabia and a major crude exporter.
The Saudi ambassador pointed out that 34 deals were signed between Riyadh and Beijing as part of the new amalgamation process.
He said that Saudi and Iran have their own interests in normalising relations, and hoped that it will help Iran to break out of isolation.
While pointing out potential opportunities for Saudi-Pak cooperation, Asseri said that BRI and the 2030 vision are interlinked, and Pakistan must use this opportunity to integrate its economy with Central Asia and other countries.
Asseri said that there are more than 2 million Pakistani workers in his country, and the remittances are to the tune of $5bn annually. He called upon the Chambers of Commerce and Industries among the two countries to cooperate more profoundly, and take interaction to the new level.
He lamented that both the countries have very low trade and the volume is less than $3bn. The former envoy said that Saudi Arabia is a land of opportunities under Vision 2030, and declared that Saudi and Pakistani interests are aligned with a rising China.
He called for ushering in political stability in Pakistan and opined that without putting the house in order democracy is meaningless.
Vice-Admiral Khan Hasham bin Siddiqui said that there is a paradigm shift in US policy vis-a-vis Gulf, and the renewed interest of China is changing the landscape.
He said that Gulf is the only place where money is pouring in, and called upon Pakistan to formulate progressive and business-centered policies.
He said that Saudia has a $1trillion economy, and non-oil revenue is up to 900bn Saudi riyal, with a tourism potential of $49bn in the year 2022.
The vice-admiral called for creating a one-window process for executing Pak-Saudi collaborative projects, so that success could be achieved.
Azfar Ahsan, former Minister of State & Chairman Board of Investment (BOI) said that there are opportunities for few billion dollars pouring in every year from China and Arab states, and it is an undeniable ground reality.
He called for facilitating existing local and foreign investors, and said that creating conducive environment is a must.
Azfar pointed out that incompetence and an unproductive bureaucracy is eating away into the vitals, and is at the root-cause of our backwardness. He said collaboration among stakeholders is essential to transform Pakistan.