Beyond the mega project: Pakistan needs reforms to consolidate CPEC gains

KARACHI: Thanks to the early harvest energy projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Pakistan is producing enough electricity, but the country now needs to have economic reforms to consolidate the impetus given by CPEC, said Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) Joint Executive Director Dr Vaqar Ahmed.
“Now that we have enough electricity under CPEC… what is next?” Ahmed questioned while speaking at a seminar on ‘Beyond CPEC: An Agenda for Competitiveness & Structural Reforms in Pakistan’ which was organised at the Karachi School of Business & Leadership (KSBL).
Citing the massive infrastructural support that the United States gave to Pakistan in the early 1950s and 1960s, he said in its absence, long-term economic planning is always an important part of any major one-time support push for projects such as CPEC.
Speaking on his book, ‘Pakistan’s Agenda for Economic Reforms’, which was published in 2017, he said there is a lack of urgency to create enough pressure for economic reforms, adding that the businesses also need to come out of their comfort zones to bring change.
Highlighting the difficulties of those bureaucrats in Islamabad who are trying to bring positive changes in the system, he quoted a top government official who has to spend three out of five working days in a week in courts to face different inquiries (often pushed forward by fellow bureaucrats to law enforcement agencies) only to justify his right intentions.
The Board of Investment (BoI) claims that it is providing one-window operations facility to foreign investors, but the reality is that investors are forced to wait for about two months just for Pakistani visas, he added.

Roundtable discussion

Representatives from different political parties and business communities argued that political parties shelf manifestos after coming into power and neither they nor the people who elect them revisit their slogans and policies.
This was discussed at a roundtable meeting on Friday organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) with partnership of Centre for International Private Enterprise (CIPE).
The federal and provincial tax regime needs to be simplified and other number of taxes on SMEs could be reduced in order to make it easy for the SMEs to graduate towards larger corporations. There is a need for tax reforms, which may result in lesser tax authorities optimising the cost of doing business, said the participants.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) MNA Dr Arif Alvi said that there should be a grass-root level ownership of the economic agenda. He raised the need to make voters aware regarding their social issues. He also exerted the importance of nutrition of children, water scarcity and education. Alvi further emphasised that the NGOs cannot cure the issues rather they should aim at guiding the government towards resolution of these issues.
Also speaking on the occasion, PPP-P MNA Dr Shahida Rehmani focused on the issues faced by the marginalised communities of Pakistan especially farmers and women. She also stressed the need to give agriculture the status of industry and include incentivised value addition infrastructure at the agricultural land.