Pakistan Industrial and Traders Associations Front (PIAF) former chairman Irfan Iqbal Sheikh has expressed his serious concern for not availing full potential of Generalized System of Preferences Plus (GSP plus), which is yet to be achieved despite the fact that the facility has been in place for the last five years.
He lamented that Pakistan’s exports to the European Union have been flat during the last four years despite waiver of duties on several products under the GSP plus.
Irfan Iqbal said that major increase in exports requires huge and wide structural reforms, urging the government to take business community on board, who are the real stakeholders in preparing policies to enhance exports, which is prerequisite for economic growth.
According to a report, the GSP facility, implemented from Jan 1, 2014, helped promote exports from Pakistan to the EU by almost 21 per cent in the first year. However, no tangible growth was recorded in export proceeds to EU in the following four years, he added.
Quoting the data, he said that before the GSP+ scheme, Pakistan’s exports to 28-member EU stood at €4.54 billion in 2013, which jumped to €5.51bn in 2014. In the second year of the GSP+ scheme, exports further jumped by 10pc to €6.09bn. However, since 2016 the exports proceeds have remained stagnant at €6.30bn in 2016, €6.69bn in 2017 and €6.88bn in 2018.
Pakistan’s imports from EU, which were at €3.84bn in 2013, have also increased in tandem with exports during the last four years to reach €5.66bn in 2018. In the post-GSP+ period, the country’s imports from the EU rose to €4.09bn in 2014, €4.44bn in 2015, €5.34bn in 2016, €6.15bn in 2017. On the basis of reports prepared by the European External Action Service, European Commission and EU Delegation in Islamabad, EU Parliament evaluated its GSP+ Scheme in 2016 and 2018, respectively. The ex-chairman of PIAF also expressed his serious concern for not achieving export target set for the fiscal year 2018-19, which was missed by a huge margin of over $5 billion. He said that exports have dropped by about one percent during the fiscal year ended June to $22.97 billion, falling massively short of the $28 billion target set by the government.
He said the government will have to take serious efforts to increase exports, which have shown no improvement from the previous fiscal year despite massive devaluation of the rupee and a range of subsidies and incentives offered by the government to the export-oriented sectors. PIAF chairman urged the government and policymakers to encourage private sectors to play their roles in putting the economy back on the right track. —INP