KARACHI: Pakistan’s interim commerce minister Dr. Gohar Ejaz announced his decision on Friday to invite 100 top global brands to attend a conference with the aim of increasing exports from the country to $100 billion within the next five years.
Addressing the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), the minister did not divulge when he was planning to hold the conference. However, he assured everyone it would take place within the tenure of the caretaker government.
“We are going to hold the conference within 90 days and approach the top 100 brands and request them to come to Pakistan as our state guest,” he said.
Ejaz said the government would provide these companies space to set up their offices free of cost and declare the area an “export zone” with complete protocol. He noted the country had more remittance inflows than export revenue, which was only limited to about $27 billion.
The minister said the government’s decision to launch a crackdown against the smugglers of dollars had led to the appreciation of the Pakistani rupee.
“The rupee that was trading at around Rs350 has come down to Rs290,” he said, adding that the real effective rate should be Rs260 and, according to inflation figures, it should be somewhere around Rs200.
Ejaz said the government had also decided to act against gas thieves since that raised the production costs of many industries.
“UFG [Unaccounted for Gas] is much higher than the benchmark,” he added. “Therefore, the cabinet has granted approval in principle for action against gas thieves, and a grand operation against them will be conducted by next week.”
The minister said the government imposed some import restrictions in the past to reduce pressure on the external account, but it had proved counterproductive.
“By imposing restrictions, imports were curtailed but smuggling from Afghanistan and Iran surged by $5 billion,” he informed.
The minister said it was not possible to offer subsidies to local industries, though an alternative proposal to provide them cheaper electricity was under consideration that would allow industrialists in Sindh and Punjab provinces to purchase power directly from producers at regionally competitive rates.
Responding to a question about the closure of markets earlier than usual, he said the deadline for that had been extended. The government had asked stakeholders to submit proposals along with hourly sales trends to make an informed decision on the matter.