LAHORE : The Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry has suggested creation of a post of ‘deputy prime minister’ to look after finance, planning, commerce, industry, communication, food and agriculture, and petroleum and natural resources. The other related departments should be placed under the proposed ‘deputy prime minister’ who should be a technocrat and should be member of the Senate.
The Chamber has also proposed constitution of ‘national water council’ (NWC), to be headed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan, with four provincial Chief Justices, and four chief ministers as members and four members technical, one from each province. Shamsul Mulk should be kept as a special member for the NWC for the purpose of construction of dams.
These suggestions were incorporated in the 25-point economic agenda titled ‘Journey to Prosperity by 2030’, designed in consultation with political leadership, to ensure continuation of economic policies regardless of political changes, and circulated among the parliamentarians, politicians, economists, academicians, bankers, chambers of commerce, federation and other stakeholders.
According to the document, the FBR needs to be reconstituted in order to place one member each from the four provinces representing business community. All local chambers could help the state in recovering and documenting the economy so that only direct taxes could be levied, and indirect taxation could be removed. These should be supported by ‘regional tax advisory committees’. Income of agricultural produce, that falls in the taxable income range, must be taxed. By this it is meant that people with land occupancy of more than ten hectares should be taxed, if the land has been cropped. VAT and sales tax are counterproductive.
The government must double its health funding at least to touch lowest international standards of healthcare. Qualified students of medical colleges should be provided land, infrastructure and interest-free loans for mini-hospitals in rural areas. This would reduce burden on urban health facilities and would support building rural healthcare facilities.
The country will be required 28.66 million new jobs by 2030, meaning approximately 1.4 million jobs every year from 2010 to 2030. If ‘Journey to Prosperity 2030’ is adopted new jobs would be in power, mining, manufacturing, transportation, and service industries. In agriculture, the focus should be on the value-addition chain that is expected to become more attractive for new jobs, based in processed and semi-processed agro-based industries such as juices, ready-to-use meat, dairy and poultry items.
By 2030, Pakistan would have attained 75 percent literacy rate. Focus from primary to secondary education would shift to technical and vocational training in rural areas and in the areas where mineral resources are found. The technical training would be transformed through Chinese support in areas such as mining, power generation and processed food industries.
Higher education must be more technical and, instead of sending students abroad and spending foreign exchange on foreign education, local facilities in technical institutes must be established. Even after construction of Bhasha dam, the country would only be able to add 1MAF water storage capacity, the rest 5 MAF will only be recovery of the capacity lost due to sedimentation. After Bhasha, Kalabagh dam must be constructed and renamed as ‘Pakistan Dam’, and Punjab must withdraw from any royalty claims for ‘Pakistan Dam’ and finally Punjab must volunteer accommodation to all those who are affected by the dam construction.
Among the alternative sources of energy, Biomass shows tremendous potential. Total capacity in biomass is 22800 MW in Pakistan and a little technical training is required to make use of this resource. Alternative Energy Board must concentrate on it to establish these units in villages.
Coal, hydropower, and biomass would produce energy at a flat rate of less than Rs 5 per unit for following 20 years, helping the manufacturing industry to grow unabated, with no taxation on inputs and availability of technically better quality workforce. Increased yield in cotton would support local textile industry to take leadership role in the market.
The state has been advised to withdraw all profiteering and taxation from energy sector. Any new projects with public-private partnership should ensure that they work on no-profit-no-loss basis. With a view to facilitate the development plans, it has been proposed to establish ‘Provincial Infrastructure Boards’ (PIB) comprising members of private sector and state functionaries, headed by Chief Minister, to devise suitable strategies for developmental work.
With more than 10 trillion dollars worth of natural resources, Pakistan must concentrate, for two decades, on developing local technology for excavation of minerals such as copper, coal, iron, and gold. Transfer of technology can take place from China in mining and it must take place at rapid pace. Privatisation and envision of multinational companies must be banned in this area. American and Indian involvement must be curtailed to take full benefit from these mines.
Means to root-out corruption, of around Rs 250 billion, from state institutions is enhancing through openness not through privatisation, which has proved wrong in case of PTCL and power sector. Similarly, open bidding, instead of concealed bidding, and frequent quality evaluation of work by community leaders can reduce corruption.
The main cause of socio-economic problems is ‘governance’ that needs to be addressed properly. Law and order is in a precarious condition that has kept investment, both domestic and foreign, away from the market. Natural resources must be equally divided in tiers of society and provinces. Merit must be followed everywhere in appointments, and equity within provinces needs to be established.
Total cropped land has not increased in decades. An addition of 5 million hectares can be ensured by desalinating previously waterlogged land through planting eucalyptus trees. Apart from this, 8 million hectares of cultivable waste of state land and another 4.1 million hectares of land in the possession of farmers, not been used for three or more years, must be allotted to farmers without land. If state allots 5 hectares of land to each family of 6 households, 17 million hectares of land can be brought under cultivation, and 3.4 million families will be given means of earning.
Through mechanisation, drip-irrigation, and by use of hybrid seeds the yield per hectare of cotton, rice, sugarcane, and wheat can be doubled within two decades. Chinese and Egyptian collaboration in this regard has been highly recommended. Cold storage sheds and mobile teams with advanced telecommunication equipment have been recommended that should work on public-private partnership with no-profit-no-loss to reduce vegetable and fruit wastage from 25 percent to 5 percent in 20 years.
In order to root out rural poverty, it is recommended to provide 5 buffaloes, 10 goats and 3 acres land to widows in each village. Once these are in place, poverty reduction will be ensured and at the same time can provide milk, meat and biomass for the power projects in villages.
Chillers and cold storage are recommended on state property, to be run by farmers’ associations to store dairy and meat products for sale on domestic and international markets. From Silk Route to Gwadar, roads and railway tracks need to be constructed for efficient and heavy traffic movement. The trade traffic can generate substantial business opportunities throughout the route.
Air travel from Lahore/Islamabad to Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan can specifically be of significance to build trade and passenger services. For this, Gwadar must be freed from all foreign influences–of India and USA. All projects, currently functioning under MNCs or FDIs, must be bound to establish institutes of transfer of technology, which they must complete within 5 to 10 years.
All US or foreign influenced transit trade agreements must be avoided at all costs. Instead of multilateral trade agreements like Safta, bilateral agreements should be signed with countries. Export of strategic resources such as raw material for military hardware, medicines, and industry must be banned.
Lastly, it has been recommended that all national political parties should have a special wing that should comprise social, economic and financial experts. This wing should cover finance, planning, infrastructure, energy, mining, industries, trade, food, agriculture, dairy and livestock, information technology, communication, commerce, resource mobilisation, education, health and financial disciplines.
These experts should work like ‘shadow cabinet’ members of the concerned political party in order to make constructive inputs for all national and international economic issues. They should be signing a new charter of economic and social development document and need to develop consensus to adopt a ’19th amendment’ in the 1973 constitution. All provincial assemblies should follow suit on this document of economic integration as it represents the issues of 85 percent of Pakistan’s population. – Brecorder