WEB DESK: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Monday announced a cut of Rs 3 in per unit tariff of electricity for industrial users and urged exporters to translate this relief into increased exports for the country.
Addressing the 39th Annual Export Awards Distribution Ceremony under the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), the Prime Minister said that as things improved, more cuts would be made to help the industrial community.
The announcement got a standing ovation from a hall full of the country’s top entrepreneurs. The Prime Minister said the new tariff would be applicable from January 1, 2016 and urged the business community to work harder and produce better quality goods, generate employment and earn foreign exchange for the country.
He said his government’s focus was on addressing three main challenges of improving economy, ending power shortages and countering terrorism, inherited by it in 2013.
Nawaz Sharif mentioned the threats of extremism and terrorism and said he was committed to rooting out the same for good from Pakistan. He said Pakistan, and particularly Karachi, were much better and safer than what they were three or six years back.
He stated that the operation in Karachi would continue and congratulated Director General Rangers, Inspector General of Police Sindh and Chief Secretary Sindh for their success in bringing peace to the port city. He said in September 2013, he stayed in Karachi for two days and met all political, business and influential people, and stakeholders, who they all agreed on conducting an operation to rid the city of extremists, terrorists and law-breakers.
He said today the change was significant as foreign businessmen were now coming back to the city and interacting with local counterparts and hoped that in the days ahead, Karachi would be vibrant and serve as the country’s economic hub.
The Prime Minister said the government was working on short-, medium- and long-term projects to make the country self-sufficient in power generation. He said the country used to witness 12-18 hours of load-shedding, but today it was considerably less and things were improving gradually.
The Prime Minister said his government was also trying to make electricity cheap and lower cost of production so as to make these more competitive and help end unemployment. He said the issue of load-shedding was being addressed at multiple levels. He recalled his visit to the Port Qasim coal-fired power generation plant and directed that it be completed by 2017.
He said in financial years 2017-18, 10,000 MW more electricity would be added to the system and another 15,000 MW by the year 2025. He said coal from Thar would be used to generate 3600MW electricity. He also referred to setting up of other power plants that were being installed at 40 percent lesser cost, saving Rs 100 billion to the national exchequer.
He also mentioned the construction of Diamir Bhasha project that would generate 4500 MW, Dasu Dam, besides the nuclear power plants of K2 and K3, Neelum Jhelum and the fourth Tarbella Expansion project that would make the country self-sufficient.
He said work was also going ahead at enhancing road connectivity and mentioned various phases of Lahore-Karachi Motorway, western corridor of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that would link Gwadar, Quetta and other areas of Balochistan with the rest of the country. Work on Sukkur-Multan Motorway, he added, would start soon. The Prime Minister congratulated the export award winners and said they had done the country proud. The event was also a good incentive for others to try harder, he added.
Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar said Pakistan today is considerably better in all areas than in 2013, owing to the effective measures taken by the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He said that Pakistan had been noted as a “macro-economic stable country” by 22 credible financial institutions of the world. The difficult decisions taken by the Prime Minister, he said, had strongly countered the threats of terrorism and extremism.
Dar said financial discipline had been ensured under the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government policies. He said massive cuts had been made, starting from the PM House of up to 40 percent. He said more income generation activities had been a success. The scope of BISP (Benazir Income Support Programme) had been enhanced to address the basic requirements of the most needy sections of society and now around three million families were getting the benefit.
He sought from the business communities proposals for ease of doing business. Rs 211 billion refunds were pending and the government was considering an out-of-the-box solution to clear the outstanding amount, he added. He said the Prime Minister would announce a new scheme for Income Tax filers and non-filers on January 1, 2016. The number of tax return filers, he added, had also risen to one million.
He said 16.5 percent growth had been witnessed in revenue collection in five months only. Pakistan produced over 12 percent of world cotton, but it was only earning one percent, he said and added that only with value addition this figure could rise many times in a short period of time. Dar said the State Bank had been asked to ensure that a certain amount must reach out to the Small and Medium Enterprises so as to diversify economy and generate employment opportunities.
Minister for Commerce Khurram Dastgir paid rich tribute to Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif for his dynamic leadership for turning around the national economy. Not only the lingering issues of gas and electricity load-shedding were being addressed, but also the challenge of terrorism had been tackled, he added. He said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor was also a game changer and would generate lots of economic activity and enhance the country’s connectivity. The country witnessed growth in all sectors in the year 2015, he added.
Giving initial trade figures, he said the exports for 2015 were 12.6 percent, owing to the positive impact of the GSP plus. He also mentioned the Trade Facilitation Agreement under the World Trade Organisation and the signing of the TIR (International Transportation Convention) accord that would help boost trade activity. Dastgir said work on inking more free trade agreements and improvement of the existing ones was underway. He said export competitiveness was also being enhanced to help the country earn more foreign exchange.
He said commercial attaches were being appointed on merit in Pakistani missions abroad to assist the country’s business community and to ensure that Pakistani entrepreneurs get a respectable place in the world business communities. The Prime Minister later distributed awards among the top performers.