LAHORE - The budget for the year 2013-14 must focus on energy sector as the country’s economic revival hinges on availability of cheaper and uninterrupted power and gas supply.

This was the crux of a pre- budget forum on ‘Budget 2013-14: Expectations and Apprehensions’ held at Aiwan-e-Waqt here on Thursday. The participants of the pre-budget forum included Aima Mehmood, Eexecutive Director of Working Women Organization; Dr. Aisha Ghaus Pasha, Director Institute of Public Policy BNU; Tariq Bucha, agriculturist; Rana Muhammad Arshad, PML-N MPA; Mian Abuzar Shad, LCCI VP; and Raja Hamid Riaz, president Qaumi Tajir Ittehad. The forum was hosted by Aiwan-e-Waqt Forum in-charge Saifullah Sipra.

Almost all the experts and representatives of all sectors called for immediate measures to bridge electricity demand and supply gap.

They said that austerity should be the theme of the budget document and for the purpose the government would have to cut off the unnecessary expenditures as excessive government borrowing was not only resulting in higher interest rates but also restricting availability of cheaper liquidity for the private sector.

Dr Aisah Ghaus Pasha suggested that sizeable funds must be allocated for improving law and order situation. Rising risk perception about investing into Pakistan has been hitting hard the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) that fell sharply in recent months and needed to be tackled through a comprehensive policy approach by involving chambers of commerce in the country.

Working Women Organization Director Aima Mehmood said that present state of law and order has been hurting Pakistan’s potential as a highly-attractive investment destination. Foreign and local investors have been shying from operating in Pakistan and a number of industrial units had already shifted their operation to other countries.

Ms Aima urged the government to broaden the tax net by bringing the agriculture and services sectors into the tax net. Public Sector Enterprises (PSEs) like Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), Pakistan Railways and Pakistan Steel Mills, generating a loss of billions annually should be managed professionally or be privatised to avoid the huge loss to the national exchequer.

Dr. Tariq Bucha said that use of biogas should be promoted throughout the rural sector both for electricity generation and gas for cooking besides producing bio fertiliser. Infrastructure development, coal, energy, agriculture, livestock, textiles and pharmaceutical sectors offer lucrative investment opportunities to foreign investors but a lack of a proper and well-tailored marketing strategy hampers investors,” said agri expert Tariq Bucha. In order to tackle the energy shortages, maximum funds would be allocated for construction of dams or water reservoirs, tapping of Thar Coal, completion of Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline and establishment of LNG terminals, committed PML-N MPA Rana Arshad.

LCCI VP Abuzar Shad said that reliance on costly thermal power has been jacking up the cost of production and the import bill as well. “The country is in dire need of an urgent shift in its energy-mix in favour of hydel power and local fuels.