The government is right to think about policies that would not only boost the industrial sector but also address that lingering problem about ease of doing business. It’s one thing to give industry tax rebates and other such incentives but unless you cut some of the cumbersome red tape even such measures can only achieve so much. After all, it’s an open secret that anybody wishing to set up any new production unit has to have so many phone calls made to so many relevant officials and grease countless palms that very few consider the whole exercise even worth the effort at the end of the day. There’s another reason that industrial transformation must happen now. This government has made some impressive strides forward since the lockdown was lifted, and even grabbed some export markets from some other countries even though some of those gains have since petered out, so it must now also take the additional step and finally initiate the process that ultimately adds value to both production and exports. That the government seems going down that road finally is a welcome sign, even though all sorts of stakeholders have very justifiable reasons to be skeptical. That is because these are the kind of promises that all governments make. Wasn’t it Commerce Advisor to Prime Minister Abdul Razak Dawood, back when he was commerce minister in the early Musharraf government, who said these same things and made the same promises to the business community? Yet, to give credit where it is due, even though the Musharraf years were far better for anybody trying to earn a living by indulging in commerce, it’s not as if he situation improved at all in the long run.
But now we as a country stand at a far more crucial crossroads. Failure to put things right and overhaul the revenue generating mechanism, of which exports are a central part, would mean that the economy would surely crash and the country collapse in the not-too-distant future. Improving production is not going to be an easy task, especially if it is to translate into more export earnings. But it is a step that has to be taken. Governments usually shy away from such things because they take a lot of money for something that will become visible after a long time. But this government has come to power at a time when the country no longer has a choice. It must do the right thing and it must do it now.