Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday admitted there is inflation in the country but it is not because of his government and ‘blamed’ increase in Pakistan’s imports and hike in commodities prices globally for it.
The prime minister was addressing the launching ceremony of the National Small and Medium Enterprises Policy 2021 in Islamabad.
This increase in imports, he explained, put pressure on the rupee and the government had to devalue it while there was an impact of COVID too.
However, there had been wealth creation, owing to the government’s hard work of three years, as there was record sale of motorcycles, cars and mobile phones.
The premier said “I admit there is no doubt, it is obvious; this is a difficult time but look at how much the world faced difficulties and what is the situation in Pakistan”.
Prime Minister Imran said the government controlled price hike through devaluation and then both the people and economy was saved in the backdrop of coronavirus and then again commodities’ prices went up, as there was another wave of inflation globally.
Extolling the importance of startups and export-oriented small businesses to the country’s economic growth, Prime Minister Imran Khan said he wanted to emulate the success of Silicon Valley and make Pakistan a hub for new businesses.
He vowed to take stern action against government departments and officials who created hurdles in the setting up of new startups and export-oriented businesses.
Saying that fresh incentives would be extended to such businesses, which he claimed had been ignored in the past, the PM said: “We are giving SMEs bank credit facility, land for their businesses on lease and eradicating red tapism.”
He said the SME sector was the biggest source of employment and had a considerable share in wealth creation.
Giving the example of Silicon Valley, the hub of startups and global technology companies in the US, he said youngsters around the world had become billionaires thanks to IT-related startups.
He said the government was facilitating young people in obtaining credit and other facilities and said he was happy that “$500 million investment in Pakistani startups is coming in from abroad”. This, he added, meant the country was heading in the right direction.
Talking about exports, the prime minister said that small countries like Singapore, which had a much smaller population than Pakistan, had surpassed us in terms of exports. “Singapore with a 5 million population has over $300 billion in exports, while Malaysia has $220 billion,” he said.
The PM said the government was trying to reduce regulations for SMEs to facilitate them. He particularly spoke about the no-objection certificate (NOC) regime, adding that inspections of businesses would be streamlined by using the latest computerised methods.
He recalled that the government had inherited multiple economic problems but said that despite challenges, the country saw a record rise in exports, remittances and tax collection figures.
He vowed to reach his aim of generating Rs8,000 billion in taxes during his five-year tenure, saying that work was being carried out with the help of the National Database and Registration Authority to develop a system to identify persons and entities that didn’t pay taxes.
The PM also announced that the government would not close down businesses or impose blanket lockdowns during the fresh wave of Covid-19, adding that this wave would be countered through smart lockdowns.
He called on the people to observe standard operating procedures (SOPs) but said that the economy would not be shutdown.
In another meeting on the master plans of large cities, PM Khan said the government was placing special focus on their development as the real engines of growth.
The prime minister directed the authorities to take all possible measures to clear hurdles to the completion of various development schemes on priority basis to provide maximum relief to their residents.
“Due to migration to urban areas, cities are facing multiple challenges and housing, job opportunities and civic amenities are scarce. It is necessary to work on special development packages for these big cities and they must be accelerated,” the prime minister said during the meeting.
He also directed the authorities to work in close coordination and launch a concerted campaign for the uplift of cities like Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Faisalsbad, Rawalpindi and Gujranwala.
The meeting was attended by Information Minister Fawad Hussain, Industries Minister Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiyar and Planning Minister Asad Umar.
Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood, Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar and Chief Minister Usman Buzdar joined the meeting via video link.
In a separate sitting convened to discuss the urea shortage, PM Imran said the government had devised a comprehensive mechanism for the distribution of fertiliser and would enlist the assistance of the district administration to ensure the availability of urea fertilizer to farmers at controlled rates.
The meeting was told that urea production during the three-year tenure of the current government surpassed 6.1 million tonnes, which had never crossed 5.5 million tones prior to 2018.