Political will essential for successful urban regeneration: Speakers

ISLAMABAD: Speakers at the second and last day of 3rdEconFest on Sunday emphasized that political will was essential for successful urban regeneration, as politicians played a key role in city development.

The event was jointly organized by the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), Research for Social Transformation and Advancement (RASTA) and the Pakistan Society of Development Economists (PSDE).

They stressed that urban regeneration was crucial for all Pakistani cities and must adhere to proper rules and regulations, which should be publicized. Additionally, they pointed out that unlike many foreign cities, Pakistani cities were lacking efficient public transport systems, which were vital for urban regeneration.

At the EconFest 2024, the panel noted that the original vision for Islamabad as a “Garden City” has faded, with a notable decline in gardens and public spaces.

In another session, the experts stressed the urgent need for deregulation to foster economic growth, citing PIDE Sludge audit reports that identify excessive regulations as barriers to GDP growth.

Led by anchor Muhammad Malik, the session featured Mukarram Ansari, Ahmad Waqar Qasim and M Ahsan Malik, who highlighted how Pakistan’s 122 federal regulatory authorities impose unnecessary licenses, excessive tax burdens, and redundant requirements that stifle business operations and deter investment.

The speakers called for the removal of these impediments, advocating for modernized regulations that facilitate rather than hinder business activities, thereby enhancing economic productivity and fostering investor confidence.

The experts discussed the future of Pakistan’s bureaucracy, focusing on making it more efficient and affordable.

Hamza Haroon emphasized reducing bureaucratic roles in city governance, aligning incentives with economic performance, and fostering competition within civil services.

Namra Awais highlighted the colonial roots of the current system and advocated for downsizing and modernizing the bureaucracy to better suit Pakistan’s complex society. She pointed out inefficiencies in the hiring and skills of Grade 1-16 officers and the lack of job descriptions for Grade 17-22 officers.

Rana Muhammad addressed pension system leakages and stressed the need for aligning job responsibilities with perks. The speakers agreed on the necessity of monetizing non-monetary benefits but noted that salaries must first be competitive.

Mukarram Ansari, the first speaker, highlighted that while regulatory authorities worldwide are meant to facilitate businesses, in Pakistan, they often create obstacles through unnecessary licenses and excessive tax burdens, stunting business growth.

He pointed out that resistance to reforms, such as those attempted by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), exacerbates the issue. Ansari stressed that deregulation does not mean eliminating all regulations but rather removing unnecessary ones that hinder business operations, citing India’s “End of License Raj” as a successful example.

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