Top Companies awards distribution ceremony at Aiwan-E-Sadr

Islamabad: President Asif Ali Zardari has called upon the private sector of the country to take full advantage of the level playing field provided to it by the present Government through financial and structural reforms.

During awards distribution ceremony among the top ranking companies and business entities for the year 2008 and 2009 held at Aiwan-e-Sadr today, the President said that the success of the winning corporations highlights the opportunities Pakistan offers to business and investment. We have a very conducive investment climate, he said.

According to prepared text of speech, the President said that Pakistan was lagging behind in the manufacturing sector and its share in the global exports was not what it should be. The private sector needs to play a greater role in enhancing manufacturing capacity to serve regional and global markets, he emphasized.

The President said that the stock exchanges also need to extend their outreach throughout the country. This, he said, will increase awareness about the capital market and attract increased equity for investment.

Lauding the key role played by Karachi Stock Exchange in developing Pakistan’s capital markets, the President remarked that the awards were also part of the positive role played by the Karachi Stock Exchange.

The President addressing the gathering said that the present coalition government inherited several economic problems. Global economic recession, circular debt, fight against militancy and floods last year has hit the economy hard, he said. He said that according to the Damage and Needs Assessment, the overall damage to Pak economy due to floods, was nearly 10 billion dollars. The Government has embarked upon a comprehensive plan, to address the economic challenges, he said.

This includes reduction in non-development expenditure to cut expenses, Reforms in power sector, Restructuring of public sector enterprises, giving incentives to attract remittances and Special programs for poverty alleviation. The President said that the Government reduced the cabinet size in order to cut expenses. The subsidy regime has been rationalized. Tax reforms have been introduced, to mobilize resources and the tax net was being expanded, through introduction of the Reformed General Sales Tax, he said.

The President said that we are not afraid to take tough decisions. Our main objectives, he emphasized, are to alleviate poverty and to create more job opportunities.

The President said that we have developed a home grown program for poverty alleviation under the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP). It has been acknowledged and appreciated worldwide as a credible instrument for alleviating poverty, he said. The President said that BISP has made remarkable progress by providing relief to over 4 million poor families. These also include the IDPs, flood affectees and bomb blast victims throughout Pakistan. More than 70 billion rupees have been disbursed to BISP beneficiaries, he said.

The President said that unanimous approval of BISP Act 2010 by both the houses in August last demonstrates the confidence reposed in the transparency, integrity and efficacy of BISP. The Program is now the leading social safety net authority in the country, he said.

The President said that the first ever nation-wide poverty survey was started from October 2010 in all districts of the country. The survey is expected to be completed by end of June. He said that more than 60% of the country has been surveyed. Survey in Gilgit-Baltistan and AJK has been completed while it the Pakhtoonkhuwah it will soon be completed.

He said that Mobile Phone Banking has been introduced for the first time for transparent transfer of BISP benefits to the poorest of the poor. This, he said, would further eliminate any human involvement in disbursement of cash to the deserving.

Another innovation, the President said, was the use of Benazir Smart Card for payments to beneficiaries and so far over 172,000 cards have been distributed and over one billion rupees disbursed to beneficiaries through the smart cards.

The President said BISP has also launched a program for soft loans up to Rs. 300,000 for setting up of small businesses to beneficiary families. Every month a ceremony is held to select beneficiaries through a draw. 17 draws have been held to date and almost Rs. 50 million have been disbursed.

The President said that under the program technical and vocational training is also provided to one member of each beneficiary family to help them stand on their own feet. In one year, he continued, 150,000 persons will be imparted training in over 60 fields. The initiative is already underway in Karak and Bannu, he said.

The President also said that life insurance cover of Rs. 100,000 has been provided to the bread winners of every beneficiary family and Health insurance for all beneficiary families is also being launched shortly as pilot on test basis.

The President said that the Government has adopted the model of public private partnership for the economic development. He said that the first step towards privatization was taken under Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed’s PPP government. This was the privatization of PTCL through listing on local and foreign stock exchanges in early 1990’s. This policy has been followed by successive governments, he noted.

The President said that government is committed to growth. He said that the Government believes in developing policies, including economic policies through national consensus. The President called upon the business community to develop a national consensus on all major economic issues. He appreciated the initiative taken by the Pakistan Business Forum and wished them success in building national consensus.

The President, on this occasion, also urged the corporate sector to also focus on workers’ education and training to enhance productivity. It is important, he said, to develop a large pool of human resources possessing the needed skills and training that is the demand of a modern economy and global market place.

Welcoming the suggestions related to the need for structural reforms in the capital markets, The President assured that the Government will give high priority to all such suggestions.

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