The government introduced Strategic Trade Policy Framework last year to encourage diversification of products, increase regional trade and expand exports to $35 billion by 2018. However, the framework failed to meet its objectives in utter disappointment of the business community and the nation. Experts believe the cumbersome procedure and official rigmarole are the basic ingredients of its failure coupled with ill-structured mechanism to avail the scheme. Most of the funds, earmarked under the scheme, have been lapsed and the Ministry of Commerce has now started working on a new policy to unveil it in six months. Meanwhile, the exports are continuously been falling and 25 percent of its volume have been washed away in four years of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government. The government ministers are not tired of claiming that they want to enhance business and trade to change the lot of this nation. However, the government thrust is still on its political relations with other countries rather than economic relations. Pakistan apparently has cordial relations with Saudi Arabia and other gulf countries, but the government could not negotiate business deals with any of the states. Saudi Arabia is the biggest country in the world having billions of dollars religious tourism industry, but Pakistan’s share in the business is negligible as compared to the European countries.
Even China has expanded its volume of business despite it has minimal diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia. It appears the Pakistani policymakers live in isolation and will never understand the dynamics of the economy and business. The western nations are taking their share of business in Gulf States but the thrust of Pakistani government always remained on the export of unskilled labour force. The Commerce Ministry is now in process of consultation with export associations and other stakeholders to bring a fresh version of the policy framework before the budget 2017-18. But the mandate of the present government will be at the brink of closure and the new government will bring new set of policies. Pakistan has trade missions all over the world with qualified commercial attachés drawing heavy perks and salaries. However, no one at home has spare time to check their performance.
This is the exercise the government machinery has been doing since the country’s inception. Until and unless a sincere and capable leadership comes to power, the vicious circle of make and break will continue to haunt the nation.