President calls upon economists to come up with out of box solutions to economic problems

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari has called upon the economists of the country to come up with out of box solutions to the economic problems of the country and make concrete recommendations on how to address some of the most critical issues faced by the economy. Speaking to the 2nd Convocation of the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) here at Aiwan-i-Sadr on Thursday, the President said that energy shortage, circular debt, taxation reforms, restructuring of public sector entities and documentation of the economy were among the critical issues of the country’s economy and the government was building consensus around these major economic challenges.
He called upon the economists to make concrete suggestions for addressing these economic challenges to put the economy on solid footings.

President Zardari said that Pakistan is passing through hard times and we all need to stand together, adding, if not today, tomorrow will be too late.The President said that the government inherited an ailing economy which suffered heavy toll due to war against extremism, on one hand and the unprecedented floods on the other.He said that he believes that one way to address the economic issues and to gear up economic development was to incentive economic initiatives. The President noted that the foreign remittances in 2007 stood at 6.4 billion dollars which have been considerable increased by following policy of offering incentives on foreign remittances. This year, the President said, we hope that our foreign remittances would touch 11 billion dollars mark.He said that the government had given incentives to farmers and as a result Pakistan became a wheat exporting country from a wheat importing country in 2007. This year 600,000 tons of wheat has already been exported, the President told the gathering. He said that we can also increase our tax revenues and collection of sales tax by giving incentives.The President also said that another important aspect in strengthening of the economy was ensuring the continuity of economic policies. He said that the energy sector had suffered most seriously because of the thoughtless reversal of the energy policies of mid 90s.

The President said that keeping in view the crucial role of continuity of policies in the economic sphere, he had called for a dialogue including all political parties and stakeholders and called upon the business community to provide ownership to the economic policies so that they were not reversed merely of political reasons.President Zardari said that the government believes that the objective of a growth strategy must be social and human uplift. That is why, he said, PPP government had especially focused on drawing people out of poverty cycle of generations.He said that a special poverty alleviation programme that enjoyed the credibility of donors both with the country and abroad was needed to provide social cover to the poorest of the poor.He said that it was a matter of great satisfaction that Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) had been a great success that provides direct income support to poor households.The President said that over 74 billion rupees had been disbursed to the poor beneficiaries, through the BISP. A scheme of soft loans, of up to 300,000 rupees for setting up of small businesses, has also been launched.He said that the BISP has provided relief to over 4 million poor families, including IDPs, flood victims and the victims of bomb blasts. The President hoped that these initiatives under the umbrella of BISP will empower poor households with education and skills.

The President said that as a result of tough decisions, the economy had turned around and had shown signs of recovery. He said that the government hopes to achieve a positive economic growth of 3 – 4 per cent during this year. Our exports are expected to increase by 25-30 per cent to US$ 24 billion, the President hoped terming this a record. The foreign reserves, he said, are 17.5 billion dollars which is also a record.The President said that we had to take difficult political decisions to bring the economy back on track. We also must realize that difficult decisions, that we have to take, have to be taken together, the President emphasized.He said that this was the reason for which he had called upon all political parties to join hands and arrive at some consensus on economic policies just as we were able to arrive at consensus on constitutional reforms.

Lauding PIDE for achieving academic excellence and appreciating the talent of Pakistani economists, the President said that PIDE had established itself over the last 50 years as a globally recognized institute in economics and its teaching programmes in Economics and Business Studies have gained national and international recognition.The President said that the government attaches the highest priority to the development of higher education recognizing the fact that only knowledge,information and technology holds the key to success in the global economy.He said that merely increasing the number of highly educated person was of a little importance, it is the quality of our graduates, depth of their knowledge and their ability of application of their knowledge which was really important, he continued.The President said that the battle of life cannot be won with wooden armour. It can be won with quality education and proper training.The President also awarded PhD, M.Phil, Masters and MBAs degrees to 86 successful graduates in various disciplines.The President urged the young economists and business graduates to come forward and take the responsibility to steer the country out of the present crisis.Earlier, Vice Chancellor of PIDE, Dr.Amjid and Chancellor Dr. Nadeem-ul-Haq also spoke on the occasion – APP