Year 2014 marked as year for Productivity and Quality by Government: Ahsan Iqbal

Islamabad, December 12, 2013 (PPI-OT): Emphasizing the need for boost in the economic performance of Pakistan, 2014 has been marked as the “Year for Productivity and Quality” by the Government. This was expressed by Ahsan Iqbal, Minister for Planning, Development, and Reforms. He was speaking at the inaugural session of the 16th Sustainable Development Conference (SDC) organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).

The three-day conference is being hosted at the Best Western Hotel, Islamabad, and brings together policy and practice communities to interact and recommend workable solutions to emerging challenges in South Asia. Ahsan Iqbal highlighted that in the new global paradigm, economic well-being stems from creation of and access to knowledge. He also emphasized that the need for regional cooperation in South Asia has now elevated due to rapid globalization.

In his welcome address, Shafqat Kakakhel, Chairman Board of Governors, SDPI, observed that the SDC has been an important forum for debate on the emerging thought that the global center of economic power is shifting to Asia.

The South Asian region, however, remains to be mired in perpetuating problems due to lack of cooperation amongst member states. He stressed the role of the civil society in creating shared voices for measures of regional cooperation in South Asia to address a wide range of problems jointly faced by member states.

Dr. Abid Suleri, Executive Director, SDPI, in his opening remarks, emphasized that inaction on part of member states of SAARC has accelerated development challenges for each of them individually as well as collectively. Hence, there is need for urgent action to jointly ponder and implement interventions in favor of the suffering masses of South Asia.

Speaking on the future outlook of Pakistan’s economy, Hafiz Pasha, Former Minister of Finance, said that the country is “perilously poised at the knife-edge”. He said that a number of economic challenges are due to non-economic factors, including terrorism, rising load-shedding, insurgency in Baluchistan, and rise in sectarian violence. All these factors have been significantly hemorrhaging economic growth and performance of Pakistan. Given Pakistan’s poor Balance of Payments position, there is a need to cut back on non-essential imports. He also stressed that corruptive tax exemptions and concessions should be withdrawn for a much needed increase in the Tax-GDP ratio.

In the panel on Reforms of Inclusive and Sustainable Growth in Pakistan, Nadeem Ul Haque, Former Deputy Chairman, Planning commission of Pakistan, said that accelerating development progress and achieving the goal of inclusive growth in Pakistan requires research-based policies.

Nadia Tahir, Lahore Business School remarked that despite obstacles such as conflict, corruption and high fiscal deficits, India and China have achieved impressive economic growth and poverty reduction in the past decade, mainly due to economic reforms in the 1990s while Pakistan continues to lag behind its regional comparators.

Talking of role of state owned enterprises in growth Naveed Cheema, Governance Specialist, Ministry of Finance said, too much government control is indeed bad for enterprises. But too little government ownership may not be good either. Inefficiencies of SOEs continue to prevent achievement in growth targets. Shermon Robinson, IFPRI, elaborated that there is lack of investment in energy and water sectors in Pakistan and there is need to prioritize these two sectors.

In the session on Sustainable Livelihoods in Conflict Situations, Sony KC presented a case study on Nepal and reported that there was an increase in livelihood support projects in the aftermath of conflict in the country. She recommended that that while livelihood projects have short-terms plans, they should also ensure long-term sustainability for beneficiaries.

Kulasbanathan Romeshun from Srilanka observed that vulnerable groups need to be given special attention in terms of food and asset security in the post-conflict situation in Srilanka. G. Minoia, working with Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium in Afghanistan said that donor interventions have often led to disparities between provinces while relatively secure provinces have attracted higher funding. She also observed that even under standard programs such as the National Solidarity Programme, agencies often worked only in more accessible areas first. On a case study on the Malakand division in Pakistan, Qasim Shah, SDPI reported that the conflict between 2007-09, left around 3 million people displaced. In this context, multiple interventions were undertaken by the government as well as by development partners; 16 projects were undertaken in Lower Dir and 34 in Swat.

In the session on Revisiting the Left Movement in South Asia, Nathalene Reynolds from French Institute of Research on Africa, Kenya opined that two stark facts stand out in the context of South Asia: abundance of wealth amongst few and a simultaneous rise in poverty.

Talking about the history of the left movement in Pakistan, Ahmad Salim, Advisor SDPI said that the movements have been affected by dictatorial regimes and imposition of marshal law.

Sanaullah Rustamani from IIUI said that the work of the progressive poet Shaikh Ayaz can be introduced in the syllabi of South Asian schools and colleges with regards to revival of the left movement in the region.

Raza Naeem from the Lahore School of Economics talked about Saadat Hassan Manto and praised his work for the leftist cause. Renowned poet Kishwar Naheed observed that left movements constitutes an important part of sustainable economic and social development in any country.

For more information, contact:
Faisal Nadeem Gorchani
Coordinator, Policy Advocacy and Outreach
Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI)
38 Embassy Road, G-6/3 Islamabad, Pakistan
Postal Code: 44000
Tel: +92-51-2278134, (Ext: 113)
Fax: +92-51-2278135
Cell: 00-92-333-559 2210

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