KARACHI: No positive steps were taken in budget 2018-19 for providing incentives to prime export-oriented sectors of textile and leather. Economists expressed their dismay over budget 2018-19 and lamented that no measures have been taken for industrialisation and extension in PM export packages. There is inability to improve growth rate of textile and leather sector exports under European Union’s General System of Preferences plus status on lack of planning. Pakistan Tanners Association Executive Member Agha Saiddain was of the opinion that no proper marketing plan was prepared to benefit from Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus. There would be need for several amendments in the budget by National Assembly where documents would be put for debate and final approval. All Pakistan Textile Mills Association Executive Member Gohar Ejaz said that the budget was not designed under the declining textile product exports that were constantly falling. Non-allocation of funds for KBD was surprising as industrial and agriculture sector have been facing power and water problems. Sanaullah Khan of onyx and marble sector, opined that this promising sector had been neglected and no funds for enhancing its working capacity have been allocated. Food export sector people showing disappointment over not considering sector for zero-rating facility said that concession could enhance due share in international food trade but no incentive was announced in budget. Promotion of halal products should be “our budget’s major agenda, as it could give a quantum jump to declining exports. There is no Muslim country in list of top-10 halal meat exporters, although Pakistan has a big potential of exporting halal meat globally”, they said. Dr Ashfaq Hassan Khan terming the budget as manipulation of numbers was of the opinion that the document was neither people nor businessman friendly. “The budget is a political statement of a political government without much economic vision,” he said. Though measures announced by the government seemed positive for the stock market but these measures could potentially be revisited by the new government after general elections. Fazal Ahmad, an economist at Houston, said that Pakistan had to go for fresh international donors programme in mid-budget period to meet fiscal balance. Lasbela Chamber of Commerce & Industry President Yakoob Karim said that under the given circumstances, withdrawal of discretionary powers given to Federal Board of Revenue’s chief commissioner and commissioners which, what they claimed, was an old and major demand of country’s chambers and trade bodies was a welcome sign. Members of Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry termed the federal budget as business and people friendly. The people of Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry were of the opinion that overall, the budget was better. They said the tax concessions to textile sector would help develop this leading export industry of the country. However, they showed their apprehension about budget implementation if new government comes up with different economic and social priorities. Limit enhancement for income tax exemption, removal of regulatory duty on important raw materials, increase in development budget, allocations for agriculture and livestock sectors and increase in pensions etc have been made in budget were positive but still there are some lacunas that should be tackled by National Assembly. Ghulam Rabbani of the yarn and cotton sector said that Gross Domestic Products (GDP) growth target of 6.2 percent was ambitious. The GDP will likely grow by 5 percent during next fiscal, he opined. Continuation of Long Term Financing Facility and Export Refinance Facility at lower rates for textile sector is appreciable. Reducing customs duty on dairy, livestock and seeds would help increase production. Published in Daily Times, May 4th 2018.