January 12, 2014

Just when people in this country think they have learnt to live with the doom and gloom around, some good news pours in to cheer them.

The last decade has been exceptionally bad for almost everything. Between the actual terrorist attacks in all big urban centres and the fear of more, the country saw its worst energy crisis. It still hasn’t recovered from both.

Therefore, the latest news, that Pakistan has secured the much-awaited duty-free access to European markets, through the EU Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) plus status, is heartening to say the least. This is going to give all export-based industries the much-needed boost but there is immense potential for the country’s textile sector which forms a major chunk of our exports. In today’s Special Report, we have tried to look at this potential for the textile sector alone, the politics behind and the preconditions of how Pakistan managed to get the GSP plus status, what it aims to achieve through this and what are the challenges ahead.

If projections are anything to go by, Pakistan intends to double its global exports from $13 billion to $26 billion in the next four years. And judging by its ambition, it aims to find markets other than EU in the process.

There are various factors that may have worked in Pakistan’s advantage but a major part was played by the losses of infrastructure it faced due to its role as a frontline state "in the war against terrorism". Apart from becoming technically qualified, its ratification of international conventions and commitment to comply with them regularly also helped it immensely.

Having achieved what it had set out to, now is the time to get started on to some real work. There is the issue of quantity as well as quality and value addition that should be on the minds of the policy-makers. And to meet these demands, there are various challenges.

Energy was and remains the industrialists’ as well as the agriculturists’ bane. They need round-the-clock supply of electricity and other energy sources and they need them at reasonable rates to compete with other players in the region. They need trained and professionally qualified workforce. They need bank loans for investment and low interest rates. There are, of course, the issues of security and law and order which hamper the country’s image and possibility of "Pakistan as a dependable supply source to the international market".

With the first milestone having been achieved, we hope the next ones will be quick to follow -- only if there is clarity of perception of the goals to be achieved.