Pakistan's manufacturing sector is performing poorly relative to Bangladesh and India, according to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization 2018 report. UNIDO data shows that Pakistan's per capita manufacturing value added is not only lower than its neighbors' but it's also growing more slowly since 2010. In fact, Pakistan's manufactured exports per capita have declined in the last decade.
Industrial Development Report 2018:
United Nations Industrial Development Organization, also called UNIDO, is a UN agency whose charter is to "promote and accelerate inclusive and sustainable industrial development (ISID) in Member States". It publishes an annual industrial development report that is "an established source of reference on industrial development. Previous editions have been examining the driving forces of industrialization and the positive factors that can lead to social inclusiveness and environmental sustainability. They have examined crucial components of the production side of industrialization, such as capacity building, energy efficiency, employment creation and technological change, to mention just a few."
Here are key data points from IDR 2018 on selected countries, including Pakistan:
Pakistan MVA per capita 2010 $134 2015 $146
Pakistan Manufactured Exports per capita 2010 $102 2015 $94
Bangladesh MVA per capita 2010 $122 2015 $182
Bangladesh Manufactured Exports per capita 2010 $121 2015 $152
India MVA per capita 2010 $228 2015 $298
India Manufactured Exports per capita 2010 $152 2015 $186
China MVA per capita 2010 $1,432 2015 $2,048
China Manufactured Exports per capita 2010 $1,132 2015 $1,601
Pakistan's Export Performance:
The bulk of Pakistan's exports consist of low value commodities like chadar, chawal and chamra (textiles, rice and leather). These exports have declined from about 15% to about 8% of GDP since 2003. Pakistan's trade deficits are growing at an alarming rate as the imports continue to far outstrip exports. This situation is not sustainable. What must Pakistan do to improve it? What can Pakistan do to avoid recurring balance of payments crises? How can Pakistan diversify and grow its exports to reduce the gaping trade gap? How can Pakistan's closest ally China help? Can China invest in export oriented industries and open up its huge market for exports from Pakistan? Let's explore answers to these question.
East Asia's Experience:
East Asian nations have greatly benefited from major investments made by the United States and Europe in export-oriented industries and increased access to western markets over the last several decades. Asian Tigers started with textiles and then switched to manufacturing higher value added consumer electronics and high tech products. Access to North American and European markets boosted their export earnings and helped them accumulate large foreign exchange reserves that freed them from dependence on the IMF and other international financial institutions. China, too, has been a major beneficiary of these western policies. All have significantly enhanced their living standards.
Chinese Investment and Trade:
Pakistan needs similar investments in export-oriented industries and greater access to major markets. Given the end of the Cold War and changing US alliances, it seems unlikely that the United States would help Pakistan deal with the difficulties it faces today.
China sees Pakistan as a close strategic ally. It is investing heavily in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which includes China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). A recent opinion piece by Yao Jing, the Chinese Ambassador in Pakistan, published in the state-owned China Daily, appears to suggest that China is prepared to offer such help. Here are two key excerpts from the opinion piece titled "A community of shared future with Pakistan":
1. China will actively promote investment in Pakistan. The Chinese government will firmly promote industrial cooperation, expand China's direct investment in Pakistan, and encourage Chinese enterprises to actively participate in the construction of special economic zones. Its focus of cooperation will be upgrading Pakistan's manufacturing capacity and expanding export-oriented industries.
2. China will also actively expand its imports from Pakistan. In November, China will hold the first China International Import Expo in Shanghai, where, as one of the "Chief Guest" countries, Pakistan has been invited to send a large delegation of exporters and set up exhibitions at both the national and export levels. It is hoped that Pakistan will make full use of this opportunity to promote its superior products to China. The Chinese side will also promote cooperation between the customs and quarantine authorities of both countries to facilitate the further opening-up of China's agricultural product market to Pakistan. China will, under the framework of free trade cooperation between the two countries, provide a larger market share for Pakistani goods, and strengthen cooperation and facilitate local trade between Gilgit-Baltistan and China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. And China will take further visa facilitation measures to encourage more Pakistani businesspeople to visit China.
Pakistan needs to take the Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing's offer to increase Chinese investments and open up China's market for imports from Pakistan. Pakistan's new government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan should take immediate steps to pursue the Chinese offer. Finance Minister Asad Umar needs to form a high-powered team of top bureaucrats and leading businessmen to develop a comprehensive plan to attract investments in export-oriented industries and diversify and grow exports to China and other countries. Pakistan must make full use of its vast network of overseas diplomatic missions to promote investment and trade.
Pakistan's manufacturing sector is performing poorly relative to Bangladesh and India, according to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization 2018 report. UNIDO data shows that Pakistan's per capita manufacturing value added is not only lower than its neighbors' but it's also growing more slowly since 2010. In fact, Pakistan's manufactured exports per capita have declined in the last decade. Pakistan's exports have declined from about 15% of GDP to about 8% since 2003. The nation's trade deficits are growing at an alarming rate as the imports continue to far outstrip exports. This situation is not sustainable. Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing has offered a helping hand to increase Chinese investment and trade in Pakistan. Pakistan's new government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan should take the Chinese Ambassador's plan seriously. Finance Minister Asad Umar needs to form a high-powered team of top bureaucrats and leading businessmen on a comprehensive plan to attract investments in export-oriented industries and diversify and grow exports to China and other countries.