Zardari calls for reforms to put economy on solid footing

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday invited the leading business houses of the country to convene a meeting of all political parties from their platform on the issue of economic reforms to put the economy on solid footing and ensure continuity of the policies. This he said during a presentation by Pakistan Business Council on the agenda for economic reforms at Aiwan-e-Sadr.He also offered Presidency as the venue of the roundtable meeting of political parties adding that he would participate in it as Co-Chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party alongwith leaders of other political parties and not preside over it as the President. Discussing the current economic situation, the President said that it was a collective responsibility to work together, hand in hand in order to overcome the challenges of the current economic situation and to put the economy back on track.He said that investors, entrepreneurs and businessmen were important stakeholders and they must come forward to play their role.If the important stakeholders do not step in now to assist the government take remedial measures and address economic issues, the economic situation would adversely affect the business community most, the President warned.The President also said that ensuring continuity of economic policies and taking along all the political parties was necessary to ensure sustained economic growth.Zardari said that had the business community owned the energy policy of mid-90s and stood against their reversal when the PPP government was undemocratically removed from office, they would not have been facing the present energy crisis.Talking about the ownership of policies, the President said, “if Pakistan’s business community takes ownership of the economic policies and plays a proactive role, no international agency will be able to dictate Pakistan in economic sphere”.The President also suggested the businessmen to make consortiums of the leading entrepreneurs to consider buying out and managing various state-run enterprises.However, he said, that the consortiums should only be of local entrepreneurs so that the assets and equity remained in the hands of Pakistani nationals.

The President also reiterated his call for maximum involvement of private sector and to adopt public-private partnership models in every mega developmental projects to take maximum advantage of it.He said that no government could tackle the prevailing dire economic challenges alone. It needed cooperation and full participation of the private sector to materialize its vision of bringing socio-economic prosperity.Talking about the economic reform agenda of the government, the President has said that the government would continue to pursue economic reform agenda despite difficulties and challenges facing it.He said the government was aware of the difficulties of the ordinary people due to financial constraints and it was making every possible effort to provide maximum relief to the hard-pressed class.He said a large number of families below the poverty line were benefitting from the BISP (Benazir Income Support Programme) adding also that the social security net provided by the BISP would be further strengthened and expanded.
The President said financial assistance provided to the poorest of the poor might seem very little but it was a major step in the direction of alleviating poverty and empowering women.The President said, “Pakistan was having no option but to enhance its trade as we cannot rely on aid alone.”

“For this, we need to focus on infrastructure development and enhancing our capacity to manage business entities effectively.”He said that during all his foreign visits and interactions with the foreign dignitaries, he had been pleading for enhanced and preferential market access to the products of the country so that the economy could be made strong.The President said he had been advocating innovative ideas in communication and infrastructure development which would open up Pakistan not only towards East and Central Asia, but also towards Turkey and the Middle Eastern regions.He said infrastructure development was an important area where they could benefit from the Chinese experience and take maximum advantage.The President said the vision to make Pakistan a hub of regional economic activities was only possible through more opening towards East and through better communication network and creating special economic zones in which the manufacturers be offered special incentives of access to regional market, captive power and maximum facilitation in their business pursuits.The President also advised the provincial governments to concentrate on capacity building to undertake mega projects in wake of recent NFC award which empowers the provinces and gives them much needed economic liberty.

The meeting was attended by Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Federal Minister for Commerce, Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Federal Minister for Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs, Mir Hazar Khan Bijrani, Federal Minister for Industries and Production, Syed Naveed Qamar, Minister for Privatization, Dr. Nadeem-ul-Haq, Deputy Chairman Planning Commission, M. Saleem Mandviwala, Chairman BOI, Federal Secretaries of departments concerned and other senior officials.The Pakistan Business Council was represented among others by Asad Umar, Chairman, Kamran, Y. Mirza, Abdul Razak Dawood, Ali S. Habib, Muneer Kamal, Sikandar Mustafa Khan and Asif Jooma.Leading members of the business community also offered suggestions which, the President said, would be forwarded to the government for consideration – APP