Pakistan’s first-ever Econfest concludes


Today was the second and last day of Pakistan’s first-ever EconFest. This economic festival was jointly organized by the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), Research for Social Transformation and Advancement (RASTA), and the Pakistan Society of Development Economists (PSDE).

The topics of discussion for today were policy; reforms; building brands and franchising; foreign aid; taxation; local government; law, justice, and economy; the urgency of economic reforms; and other important topics.

Talking about branding and franchising in Pakistan, branding and franchising are still in the earlier stages. However, there is great potential for building Pakistani brands that can create a name for Pakistan in international markets and also contribute to exports.

However, many problems stand in the way of brand creation. The most critical issue that Pakistani brands and commerce face is the inconsistency of policy. Whenever a government or even a minister changes, the policies change which wastes businesses’ investment.

Another important issue that Pakistani brands face is that of intellectual property rights. As far as e-commerce and online advertising are concerned, there are mainly two platforms for advertising, i.e., Facebook and Google, which are very expensive.

Moreover, business-to-customer (B2C) transactions are concerned; there are issues of warehousing in international locations, returns, and payment mechanisms.

In the session on taxation for development the panelists said that because the tax system is complex, individuals prefer to invest in real estate. However, even if the tax system is simplified, the real reason real estate is an attractive investment is that it allows people to park their undocumented. The businessmen participants in the session argued tax collection in Pakistan is low because the system is complex and rent-seeking by tax officials.

The former Chairman of FBR, Shabbar Zaidi, claimed that the reality is that only 300 corporations pay the bulk of the collected taxes. He said that there is a lot of wealth is parked in the real estate sector because it is undocumented and low tax rates are low. He said that land records are missing and inaccurate land records which contributes to low

tax collection.

In the discussion on tech for change, a pertinent dialogue on the digital and technological landscape of Pakistan took place. The participants presented a holistic overview of Pakistan’s tech realm and focused on the tech-related challenges in Pakistan. The panel discussed issues of design and interface, and the role of societal norms that

contribute to the digital divide in Pakistan. They said that the current digital and technological infrastructure is based on Western models, and the usage is predominantly designed along the lines of western life.

In Pakistan, the digital divide is a huge problem across social structures such as gender and class. The design and interface of the technology infrastructure are gender-blind and non-inclusive. The panel discussed the prospects of digital and financial inclusion through socially sensitive and contextually embedded tech solutions such as microfinancing and digital wallets. The discussion included the role of government and policy in designing interventions to incentivize digital inclusion.