Can Pakistan Follow Vietnam's Example to Become the Next Asian Tiger?

Vietnam has attracted major manufacturing and export-oriented industries that have relocated from China as the US-China trade war heated up. This process further accelerated during the COVID19 pandemic in the year 2020. As a result, Vietnam is now labeled by many analysts as "The Newest Asian Tiger". Bangladesh, too, has attracted export-oriented garment manufacturing industries.  Can Pakistan follow Vietnam's and Bangladesh's examples? Pakistan was the original Asian Tiger back in the 1960s when other developing Asian nations sought to emulate its development model.  

Vietnam's Rise:

With rising manufacturing costs in China and the US-China trade war,  many major manufacturers are relocating to other countries in Asia. This situation has helped Vietnam emerge as a hub of foreign direct investment (FDI). FDI flow into the country has averaged more than 6% of GDP, the highest of any emerging economy. The country’s recent economic data shows a rise of 18% in exports, with a 26% jump in computers/components exports and a 63% jump in machinery/accessories exports.  These figures have earned Vietnam the moniker of the newest "Asian Tiger". 

South Asian Countries' Export Growth. Source: Wall Street Journal

Bangladesh's Exports:

Bangladesh's garment exports have helped its economy outshine India's and Pakistan's in the last decade. Impressed by Bangladesh's progress, the United Nations’ Committee for Development Policy has recommended that the country be upgraded from least developed category that it has held the last 50 years. 

The next challenge for Bangladesh is to move toward higher-value add manufacturing and exports, as Vietnam has done. Its export industry is still overwhelmingly focused on garment manufacturing. The country’s economic complexity, ranked by Harvard University’s Growth Lab, is 108 out of the 133 countries measured. That is actually lower than it was in 1995, according to the Wall Street Journal

Pakistan's Potential: 
Pakistan was the original "Asian Tiger" back in the 1960s when  other developing Asian economies sought to emulate its development model. It became an export powerhouse in the 1960s when the country's manufactured exports exceeded those of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia combined.  The creation of major industrial estates in Karachi under President Ayub Khan's industrial policy incentivized industrial production and exports of value added manufactured products such as textiles. Now the country's industrial output lags its neighbors'. 
History of Pakistan's Manufactured Exports

With Chinese looking to relocate some of their industrial production to low-cost countries, Pakistan has a golden opportunity to grow its industrial output and exports again. Here's Karen Chen explaining why:
“Vietnam is too crowded already and moved into automobiles and electronics. There is no space for investment in Vietnam. Myanmar doesn’t have infrastructure. India is terrible. In Bangladesh you don’t have right conditions for setting up fabric units. So Pakistan is the ideal location for such garment manufacturing because of abundance of cheaper labour. The investment and tax policies for SEZs and new projects are also good. We’ve confidence to be at here.”
Seizing the opportunity to attract export-oriented investors will help Pakistan become the next Asian Asian Tiger economy. It will help the country avoid recurring balance-of-payments crises that have forced the nation to seek IMF bailouts with all their tough conditions. Focusing on "Plug and Play" Special Economic Zones (SEZs) is going to be essential to achieve this objective.

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Comment by Riaz Haq on March 6, 2021 at 8:41pm

Pakistan: 1.2 million #smartphones manufactured in first two months of 2021. These phones were manufactured at the 33 local #mobile devices assembly plants in #Pakistan. #manufacturing – Gulf News

https://gulfnews.com/world/asia/pakistan/pakistan-12-million-smartp...


The number of smartphones assembled and produced in January and February 2021 indicate a significant increase as compared to the last two years. The country produced 2.1 million smartphone devices in 2020 and 119,639 in 2019, according to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).

The country has produced over 25 million mobile devices including 4G smartphones following the successful implementation of PTA’s Device Identification, Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS).

“With the successful execution of DIRBS, the local assembly industry has evolved from infancy to well-growing stage, with significant growth seen in the local assembly of smartphones,” PTA said. The system implemented in 2019 also led to a significant increase in legal imports of mobile devices.

In 2020, Pakistan approved its first mobile device manufacturing policy to attract investment and encourage manufacturers of major cell phone brands to set up plants in Pakistan.


Job opportunities
The policy also aims to create more job opportunities in Pakistan, create smartphone research and development centers and boost the production of electronic equipment in Pakistan.

The government’s offered several tax incentives and abolished withholding tax on locally assembled phones which encouraged the investors to set up companies in Pakistan, says Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Amin ul Haque.

Leading smartphone brand Infinix currently has the largest mobile phone production and assembly plant in Pakistan where 3 million units are produced each year.

Vivo, Airlink and Advance Telecom are the three new companies that will soon establish their manufacturing units in Faisalabad, Lahore and Karachi.

PTA also received several mobile device manufacturing applications after finalizing its mobile device manufacturing regulations which “will help create more jobs in this technical sector, as well as enable consumers to buy locally manufactured mobile devices.”


5G connectivity
Pakistan’s telecom sector offers attractive investment opportunities as it boasts of 178 million mobile phone subscribers with 93 million 3G-4G users, according to the January 2021 data.

Pakistan is also set to launch 5G mobile phone connectivity by December 2022 following a successful trial by PTA in February 2021.

The demonstrations included remote surgery, cloud gaming and overview of anticipated 5G technology applications for social and economic development of Pakistan.

“With the successful 5G trial in a limited environment, we believe that this technology will unlock new realities for eHealth, smart homes and cities, agriculture, autonomous vehicles, cloud computing, Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence” Nadeem Khan, acting CEO of PTCL Group said.

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 7, 2021 at 9:53am

Speaking at a Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry webinar in December, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Institutional Reforms Dr Ishrat Husain stressed the importance of looking beyond the textile sector and diversifying Pakistan’s exports. Otherwise, he warned, we will remain “stuck” at 25 to 30 billion dollars in exports per year.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1611075

“If we can capture just one percent of the Chinese market by providing components, raw materials [and] intermediate goods to the Chinese supply chain,” he had said, “we can get 23 billion dollars in exports to China, which is very favourably inclined towards Pakistan...”

From the looks of it, others were on the same page as Husain. Last month, it was reported by China Economic Net (CEN) that China will import dairy products from Pakistan. The Commercial Counsellor at the Pakistan Embassy in Beijing, Badar uz Zaman, told CEN that Pakistan got this opportunity due to its high quality dairy products, available at a low price.

Pakistan is the fourth largest milk producer globally, Zaman pointed out.

Indeed, the country’s dairy industry has great potential and can prove to be ‘white gold’ for Pakistan. Unfortunately, the sector is currently struggling due to various reasons but, if its export potential is realised, it can transform not only the sector itself but Pakistan’s economy as well.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation at the United Nations, in the last three decades, global milk production has increased by more than 59 percent, from 530 million tonnes in 1998 to 843 million tonnes in 2018.

This rise in global milk consumption is an opportunity for countries such as Pakistan to earn foreign exchange by exporting milk and dairy products to countries which have insufficient milk production. According to a Pakistan Dairy Association estimate, with support from the government, Pakistan can earn up to 30 billion dollars from exports of only dairy products and milk.

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 10, 2021 at 12:26pm

Plastic exports increase 11.40% in 7 months

https://nation.com.pk/01-Mar-2021/govt-releases-rs63-978-21-million...

The exports of plastic materials witnessed an increase of 11.40 percent during the seven months of current financial year (2020-21) as compared to the corresponding period of last year. Pakistan exported plastic worth $185.918 million during July-January (2020-21) as compared to the exports of $166.885 million during July-January (2019-20), showing a growth of 11.40 percent, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) data.

In terms of quantity, the exports of plastic also rose by 26.09 percent as the country exported 195,134 metric ton of plastic during the period under review as compared to the exports of 154,758 metric ton during last fiscal year. Meanwhile, on year-to-year basis, the exports of plastic material witnessed increase of 48.90 percent during the month of January 2021 as compared to the same month of last year. The exports of plastic from the country during January 2021 were recorded at $21.486 million against the exports of $14.430 million in January 2020. On month-on-month basis, the plastic exports during January 2021 rose by 18.94 percent as compared to the exports of $18.064 million in December 2020, the data revealed.

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 10, 2021 at 12:49pm

Pakistan Plastic Industry Overview

by State Bank of Pakistan

https://www.sbp.org.pk/departments/ihfd/Sub-Segment%20Booklets/Plas...


The use of plastic is increasing all the time as
they have replaced other materials like metal,
wood, paper, ceramics and glass in a wide variety
of uses due to its exceptional qualities such as
high heat resistance, durability, light weight, and
many more, which has placed it as one of the
fastest emerging markets in Pakistan.
The leading markets for plastics are in packaging,
building and construction and the
automotive/transport industries, all of which have been generally buoyant. According to Pakistan
Plastic Manufacturers Association, the industry is growing at an annual average growth of 17
percent and will continue to grow at a faster pace in years to come with current exports reaching
USD 400 million1
.
Despite high demand for plastic due to its superior qualities, the industry still has not reached its
full potential in Pakistan. Plastic industry has huge investment potential, which can lead to its
high growth. The main area which requires attention is the absence of locally made dyes and
molds and locally manufactured raw materials, which are imported. Skilled man power and
training institutions are also of utmost need.
Overseas competition from more developing countries is having an impact on domestic demand,
as cheap imports of relatively low added-value products are causing some parts of the world’s
plastics industry to restructure. This is carried out by setting up their manufacturing units in third
world countries and have themselves import plastic products, as well as exporters of plastic raw
materials, having double benefits.

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 10, 2021 at 8:30pm

China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has provided Pakistan an excellent opportunity to transform from an agriculture-based economy to an industrial-based state that ultimately helps decreasing poverty to a significant level.

https://nation.com.pk/10-Mar-2021/cpec-has-potential-to-alleviate-p...

According to Gwadar Pro, economists in Pakistan believe that CPEC will provide solid support to the industrial sector to modernize itself and become more efficient and competitive for achieving the desired goals.

The various energy projects, coupled with improvements in infrastructure and road networks have already addressed some of the key constraints to growth and for poverty allivation.

Various projects completed under the CPEC have employed more than 100,000 Pakistanis.

More importantly, the development of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) would enable industries to smooth supply chains, enhance collaboration and innovation capabilities, and help reap significant economies of scale.

Analysts believe Pakistan will be the biggest beneficiary of CPEC. It has already won hearts in Pakistan. This project has emerged on Pakistan’s horizon as the biggest source of jobs for Pakistani youth. The experts added, Pakistan also needs to learn a lesson from China’s five-year plan policy. As the building of SEZs takes pace, Pakistani authorities expect the transfer of technology and spillovers from China into Pakistan in a few years.

While China has already transferred coal and road construction technology to Pakistan, authorities here are expecting the transfer of technology in the pharmaceutical, auto sector, and chemicals industry which will boost the economic activity here employing a great number of people.

Authorities are expecting the relocation of Chinese firms making pesticides and synthetic fertilizers to Pakistan.

The relocation of such firms to Pakistan becomes a possibility and CPEC envisions joint ventures in fertilizer and pesticide manufacturing between the Pakistani and Chinese enterprises which will open job opportunities for thousands of graduates of Agriculture sciences.

Pakistan needs to offer incentives to encourage local and foreign companies to set up factories and plants in Pakistan which can employ a huge number of local labor both skilled and unskilled. Independent analysts and experts in Pakistan believe, Pakistan cannot achieve desired growth unless the manufacturing sector and exports are strengthened. Pakistan needs an export-driven growth strategy following China’s vision.

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 3, 2021 at 10:14am

Chinese company to carry out marketing for Rashakai SEZ

https://nation.com.pk/03-Apr-2021/chinese-company-to-carry-out-mark...


The China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) would carry out the marketing campaign for the Rashakai Special Economic Zone under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) expressing interest to work with the Board of Investment in this regard.

In a meeting with Minister for Planning Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar here on Friday, the CRBC Vice President Sun Yaoguo along with a delegation said that external marketing of the SEZ to local and foreign investors was crucial for its full operationalization.

The meeting reviewed the Rashakai Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and CRBC’s mega-project Karachi Coastal Comprehensive Development Zone. The vice president of CRBC stated that the development work of Rashakai SEZ was being carried out at a fast pace and to that end the necessary resources had already been mobilized.

He assured the minister that the timelines for the projects would be strictly observed. The minister said that the industrial cooperation was the need of CPEC and the government was keen to see early completion of the project and the ministry of energy had already expedited the work on supply of electricity and gas to the SEZ.


He said that BOI would fully cooperate with CRBC for effective marketing of the SEZ. Asad Umar said that it was the first time in Pakistan that the foreign developer would be marketing an Industrial zone. He hoped that CRBC would be able to attract substantial investment in the SEZ from Chinese investors.

During the meeting Mr. Sun also briefed about CRBC’s mega project Karachi Costal Comprehensive Development Zone in collaboration with the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and the government of Sindh.

He said that the project would add substantially to the city’s economy landscape and would be generating employment opportunity for a very large number of populations of the city.

The minister said that the Karachi Costal Development Project was an important project and the federal cabinet had approved the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

It will give a boost to the business and technology sectors and provide employment opportunities to the people.

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 9, 2021 at 5:54pm

Pakistan has potential to push annual exports upto $88.1 bn: World Bank

https://www.app.com.pk/business/pakistan-has-potential-to-push-annu...

https://thedocs.worldbank.org/en/doc/884b60a84f16362376215acef470fb...


Given Pakistan’s observable characteristics in terms of economic size, level of development, remoteness, and factor endowments, it is estimated that Pakistan’s potential annual exports are at US$ 88.1 billion, about 4 times the actual current level, World Bank said in its recent report “Pakistan Development Update”.

This large gap between actual and potential exports, or “missing exports,” places Pakistan among the top quartile of the distribution of countries with missing exports. Were Pakistan’s exporters to tap into that potential, the resulting export-to-GDP ratio would place the country at around the middle of the distribution of countries according to export orientation. To reach that point, Pakistan’s exports would need to grow at the same rate as Vietnam’s for 10 years, or Bangladesh’s for 13 years.

The report said that the opportunity cost of Pakistan’s “missing exports” is estimated at 893,000 jobs and US$ 1.74 billion in foregone taxes. Of these, 152,000 jobs could be created in the agriculture export sector, and 741,000 jobs could be created in the
manufacturing export sector.

While some of these jobs could be newly created, others may imply the reallocation of labor from relatively lower productivity, domestic-oriented firms, to higher productivity, export-oriented firms.

In terms of foregone tax revenue, a back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that realizing the export potential would bring an additional US$ 1.74 billion in direct tax revenues annually, taking into account Pakistan’s value added share in gross exports, as well as the implicit direct tax rate across sectors.

The report added that since the turn of the century, Pakistan has become a more inward-oriented economy. A long-term examination of export performance reveals structural stagnation.

In 1990, Pakistani firms served 0.19 percent of the world’s imports. By 2019, they served only 0.12 percent—a nearly 40-percent decline in their market share. As a share of the economy, exports stood at 16 percent of GDP in 1999, but less than 10 percent in 2020.

To tap into the export potential, Pakistan needs to upgrade its trade policy framework. Specifically, it needs to reduce the anti-export bias of tariff policy. This entails gradually reducing import duties across the board, as well as reducing the extent of the cascading by applying larger import duty cuts to final goods relative to intermediates and raw materials.

Analysis shows that protecting the domestic market through high rates of import duties, as the ones observed in Pakistan, comes at the expense of missing out in terms of exports, because it incentivizes firms to sell domestically rather than to export.

The high levels of protection observed in Pakistan carry a high opportunity cost in terms of export-oriented jobs lost, and a higher productivity path the economy could undertake.

Second the government needs to reorient trade enhancement schemes. Currently, schemes such as those put forward in Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO) 711(I) 2018, provide support to exporters that reach destinations with low export potential and low
dynamism, thus not leading to an effective and efficient allocation of scarce public funds.

High-potential Asian destinations should be targeted rather than low potential African, Latin American, or Pacific Islands ones.

Thirdly the Pakistan government needs to negotiate market access with high potential destinations. Central Asian republics are a high potential for Pakistan, because of high missing exports to those countries, and because of their import dynamism.

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