ISLAMABAD: Regional economic integration is highly dependent on peace and stability in Afghanistan, Sartaj Aziz, deputy chairman at Planning Commission said on Tuesday.
“Any future progress on regional integration will sustain if peace and stability in Afghanistan comes about, which is not possible without Pakistan’s support to the international community and we will do all that we can to help Afghan reconciliation process,” Aziz said, speaking at a three-day 20th sustainable development conference organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).
“Pakistan is an important force behind keeping trans-boundary energy and resource sharing agreements on track.”
Deputy Chairman Planning Commission said China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has paved the way for foreign investment in the country and enabled Pakistan to connect to all countries using this concept of One Belt, One Road initiative.
Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Country Director in Pakistan Xiaohong Yang said efficient infrastructure is an important element for regional cooperation.
“Trade patterns are changing very much between emerging and developing countries and ultimately Pakistan has great potential to trade with CAREC (Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation) countries,” Yang added. “There is a dire need to diversify the basket of exportable items. Tax regimes need to be re-formulated to improve trade and promote SMEs (small and medium enterprises) by providing them with access to credit.”
Safdar Parvaz, a director regional cooperation at ADB said Pakistan stands at the cross-roads, and can extend regional cooperation among South Asian countries.
Parvaz said the CAREC is trying to promote regional cooperation in all forms, connecting people across the region eventually to increase trade and investment opportunities.
Advisor to Prime Minister on Economic Affairs Miftah Ismail said industrial zones will play an instrumental role in economic development under CPEC projects.
“SMEs should be local economic venture, with focus on industrial zones as facilitators to national development innovations,” Ismail said. “Industrial zones, therefore, are the backbone of economic development under CPEC.”
Special economic zones are the new models of economic growth planned under the CPEC with 46 zones and nine priority special economic zones, which will receive special economic incentives and regulations.
Ishrat Hussain, former governor State Bank of Pakistan said equity expansion and quality human resources are both crucial and inescapable conditions for success. “Additionally, regulations must continue to be separated and specialised for SMEs.”
Hussain said Bangladesh’s growth has surpassed Pakistan, as currently it stands at 6 to 6.5 percent. Bangladesh’s current exports for 2016 were $35 billion, whereas Pakistan’s exports were $21 billion.
“Policies need to be implemented, as efficient, strong, capable institutes make an economy functional,” he added. “If the efficiency decreases, the cost and the competitive edge will also decrease. Good governance and inclusive institutions can help promote economic integration in Pakistan.”
Zubair Tufail, president of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry said a large-scale unemployment is the real problem in Pakistan, “so private sector must focus on creating employment opportunities.”
Pranav Adhikari from Nepal linked gender equality and empowerment with the achievement of sustainable development goals.