$37b trade potential can reduce inequalities in Pakistan, India: Ishrat Hussain

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  • CPEC to impact the lives of vulnerable people: Ahsan Iqbal
  • India, Pakistan have no option but to talk on all issues: Sherry Rehman
  • Dr Abid Suleri calls for opening knowledge corridors in region
  • Hafiz Pasha calls for showing political maturity

Prime Minister’s Advisor for Institutional Reforms and Austerity Dr Ishrat Hussain has said that both India and Pakistan have the trade potential of $37 billion, which could be proved a powerful engine for the shared prosperity and to reduce inequalities in the region.

He was speaking at the concluding ceremony of 21st Sustainable Development Conference followed by 11th South Asia Economic Summit organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute here on Friday.

“We need to invest in science and technology to tap the potential of 4th industrial revolution, otherwise, we will lag behind, he suggested. The challenge for us today is to invest in labour productivity in services and agriculture sector. “For that we have to invest in human development.” Dr Ishrat said that inequalities, such as gender, income, and social, coupled with poverty are hindering development and growth of the regional countries.

He stressed the need for improving the quality of education in Pakistan so as to create the job opportunities. Talking about bilateral relations between India and Pakistan, Dr. Hussain suggested improving barter system between the two countries to improve the status of producers and consumers.

SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri said that during the four-day long two mega events around 40 different session were organized, where issues such as trade, peace, climate change, poverty, left politics, SDGs, health, education, fiscal decentralization, charter of economy, agriculture and role of media were discussed in detail. He said that economic corridors, trade or strategic corridors can only be successful unless we have knowledge corridors in the region. He said that SDPI always tried to be the part of solutions and help governments in providing evidence based advice to policy makers. He called upon the political parties to reduce the political tensions and evolve consensus on issue of public interest.

He said social mobilization programmes should be research-backed wherein all the stakeholders should be actively engaged to ensure sustainable development.

Former Interior Minister and PML-N MNA Prof. Ahsan Iqbal said that we are passing through the age of digital revolution where artificial intelligence is reshaping the future of this world. At the moment, when inequality is growing at an alarming level, we have to ensure that every single person of the society has the access to information and communication technology to fight inequalities. He said that in this changing world of ICT, we should not be myopic but to adapt to the changes. He said that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will impact the lives of most vulnerable people and under CPEC, through, Higher Education Commission (HEC), we had started the knowledge corridor by partnering with 50 Chinese universities on the programmes which are relevant to Pakistan’s economic needs.  To further harness the potential of regional connectivity, we need stronger connections on trade, culture and technologies among regional countries, he said

PPP leader Senator Sherry Rehman said that peace within and peace without should be our objective while moving towards regional cooperation and connectivity, which would help Pakistan and other countries of the region to grow and develop. India and Pakistan have no option but to talk on all unresolved issues including Kashmir, she said, adding that there is consensus among all the political parties in Pakistan to have peace talks with India.

“We have history of starting and stopping the talks, and walk-out from the peace talks would not help any country.  Visa free corridors like Kartarpur Corridor can help bring peace in the region despite political differences.  We must look at the peace to harness the potential of regional cooperation.” She said the knowledge across the borders should not retain within the governments whereas it must reach out to the people of the region.  Development can only be sustainable when it responds to the local and vulnerable of the society, she maintained.

Earlier, speaking at a session titled: Fiscal Decentralization: Gaps and Challenges, former Finance Minister Dr Hafiz A. Pasha stressed the need for showing political maturity that what he said “we all require as a nation”. He added that federal front needs to have high degree of rationalization for fiscal decentralization.

Dr Kaiser Bengali, Chairman of Sindh Education Foundation (SEF), discussing the NFC Award, 18th Constitutional Amendment and the imbalance between federal and provincial governments said that federal government was the looser of the 7th NFC Award. He said richest 10% of the population pays 10% of income tax while poorest 10% of the population pays 16% of income tax.

Prof. Dr Jan Werner from Cologne Business School, Germany said there are two ways of centralization, i.e. horizontal and vertical and Germany is adopting these ways in tackling problems related to the implementation of fiscal policies. He said that Pakistan should not do too much and start new initiatives as it doesn’t have many incentives.

Mr Sanjeev Pokharel, Chief Technical Advisor, Kathmandu, Nepal, talked about the revenues sharing in Nepal’s Nascent Federalism. Further, he discussed about the advancement in Nepal since its formation.

Speaking at a concurrent session titled: Rightsizing the Health Warning Tobacco Control Initiative Senator Mian Muhammad Ateeq Sheikh said while making policies we forget that we need to take onboard the real stakeholders; in this case the tobacco producers should implement laws regarding the limited use of tobacco in the country. He argued that the newly-levied sin tax has caused a lot of social backlash and he was personally of the opinion that in Pakistan the main hurdle has been the ineffectiveness to implement policies because of the strong position these entities hold because of the leverage they get by paying heavy taxes.

Ms Saadiya Razzaq, Health Economist and Member of the Population Council, showed concerns about the availability of illegal brands of cigarettes in and around the areas of Islamabad. She recommended that the ban and taxes should not only be limited to smoking tobacco but also on the chewing tobacco.

Mr Nadeem Iqbal, CEO of Network for Consumer Rights Protection, said multi-sectoral policies should be the part of the grand legislative policy and there is a need to involve all the ministries concerned to effectively implement the prohibition of tobaccos. Dr Naushad Hamid said that we have reached this dilemma because of the easy availability and cheap taxes on tobacco uses; she claimed that this is the most neglected sector of the Health Ministry.

Speaking at another concurrent penal titled: Oil based energy generation plants to shut off after this year, Nadeem Babar, the Chairperson of PM’s Task Force on Energy Reforms, highlighted few problems regarding energy generation in Pakistan. Starting with what we have to achieve in future with a focus on what we have to overcome from past. “Pakistan is facing huge energy leakages due to various reasons, he said, adding that the government is carrying out a massive crackdown on theft and non-recovery. He further said that we expect consumers to pay for what they use but it is not the case. In long-term, the government is looking for the availability, affordability and sustainability of energy.

Mr Simon Nicholas, IEEFA, Australia said Australian approach of energy generation is different and no more coal energy plants are being built in Australia.

Mr. Omer Haroon Malik said that we need to change our approach for energy production but this should be a transitional change over the period of time and cannot be done overnight.

Mr. Khalid Mansoor from Hub Power Company has shown his relief over the policies being made are long term. He pointed out that prior to this short term policy were made.

Speaking at a session titled: Poverty reduction through social mobilization in South Asia, Shoaib Sultan Khan, the Chairman of Rural Support Programme Network (NRSP) said that social mobilization is the key to poverty reduction since we can reach poorest of the poor through this approach.

Mr Koshif Rijabekov, an expert from Tajikistan, shared as to how Aga Khan Rural Support Program model has been adopted in Tajikistan by Mountain Societies Development Support Program to yield successful results.

Ms Munawar Humayun from Sarhad Rural Support Program highlighted the impact of community based social mobilization intervention to empower vulnerable groups and the importance of uplifting the value chain so that women from the poorest villages could export their products to the global market.

Mr Ejaz Rahim from RSPN reiterated that no intervention could succeed until it goes all the way down to the household level.

Dr Tariq Banuri, Chairman of Higher Education Commission, stressed the need for introducing rural support programme approach in our education system to bridge the gap between academic research and field communities.

Speaking at a concurrent session titled: Role of Private Sector in Climate Action, former federal minister Nisar A. Memon discussed the harmful human impacts on climate. He focused on bringing awareness in the society which, he said, would lead to better socioeconomic conditions of the country.

Ms Ayesha Khan, Country Director of Hashoo Foundation, highlighted the importance of working together by private sectors, government sectors and civil services.

Mr Naeem Zamindar, the former Chairman of Board of Investment, emphasized the sense of ownership that is required to be inculcated in order to bring about reforms in the societal behaviours.

Mr Shabih A. Mohib, Programme Leader at South East Country, Department of the World Bank, stressed upon the importance of private sector being the frontier of innovation. He also discussed 3Ts, i.e. Technology, Tourism and Transit, to use them as a tool for connectivity,

Dr Shaukat Hameed Khan, the former Chairman of Comstech, emphasized on the ways to mitigate energy waste and have more energy efficient methods to combat climate change.

The panelists agreed upon the idea of contribution of each sector in order to control the adverse effects of humans on environment.

Speaking at another concurrent session titled: Achieving SDGs through Citizen Centric Health Reforms, Senator Mehr Taj Roghaan, member of Standing Committee on Health, stressed the need to bring about reforms at grass roots level, as she said reforms at federal level do not have an efficient trickledown effect to achieve SDGs. She added that health sector is largely affected due to the absence of implementation mechanisms.

Ms Ayesha Raza Farooqi, the Chairperson of Standing Committee on Delegated Legislations, said there should be an inter-sectoral approach to health as prevention is far more cost-effective than cure.

Dr Nausheen Hamid, Parliamentary Secretary, said Drug Regulation Authority Pakistan (DRAP) Act has been fully revisited to subtract weaknesses, and the approval of this act will help in proving a better role of DRAP. She maintained that not only the price but the quality of medication also needs to be kept under check.

Speaking at a concurrent session on Intra-regional Investment Cooperation in South Asia for SMEs Development, former finance minister Rana Mohammad Afzal Khan said Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of economy, which require strengthening of entrepreneurial skills, trade associations and skill development at micro level to strengthen the role of SMEs in South Asia. He emphasized to establish tax free zones between India and Pakistan to strengthen bilateral trade among these countries.

Highlighting the role of women in SMEs, Dr Bina Pradhan from Nepal said that gender inequality is one of the major causes of hindered human development index in South Asia. She quoted the example of Nepal where women are generating 6% higher revenues than men in SMEs. She suggested that a regional exchange and observation program should be launched in South Asia.

Ms Tayyaba Batool from Pakistan Regional Economic Integration Activity in USAID said that better national SMEs planning purpose, updated census enlisting all the SMEs in the country, lack of digital key payment link and platform for knowledge sharing at the regional level are required to address the challenges imposed due to SMEs development in the country.

Ms Meher Shah from Karandaaz, Pakistan said that less than 10% contribution is made by private sector for strengthening SMEs whereas 9% investments are made in Research and Development.

Stressing the need for global value chains and shared opportunities, Shimmail Duad from PRIME Institute said that lack of investment opportunities, access to adequate capital and lack of protectionism is the cause of hurdles for SMEs development.

Bipul Chatterjee, Economist from India, stressed upon increasing the share in manufacturing gross value addition to 30% to call ourselves as industrialized nations.

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