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News Day 1

The inaugural session of the 24th AGM and conference of the PSDE was held in Marriott Islamabad. The Prime Minister of Pakistan Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani inaugurated the Pakistan Society of Development Economists conference. Delivering his inaugural address he said that my government has actively encouraged the participation of economic experts in policy making in the current economic crisis which the country is facing today. When the new democratic government took over there were many challenges faced by the country. The economy was fragile and government needed to take abrupt steps to cope with the situation.

However, the government is doing everything to stabilize the macro-economic indicators. Significant steps have been taken to reverse the anti-agriculture policy by the past government. We have provided incentives to farmers by necessary support price for wheat and subsidizing agricultural inputs to boost production.

In order to give relief to poor segment of the society, the government has started Benazir Income Support Programme and allocated 34 billion rupees for the support of 3.4 million families. The direct income support programme will be extended to 7 million poor families in future.

To address the energy shortage government is taking all steps to build small dams and develop infrastructure.

High priority is given to accelerate developmental projects in FATA and Baluchistan.

The Prime Minister said that he has directed the Ministers to protect the expenditure on health and education despite pressure on budget. We will try to maintain 3% growth rate of GDP by the half of this year and inflation will be brought to single digit.

Sardar Asif Ahmed Ali while speaking on the occasion said that Planning process must be for the people and by the people. In the past as a consequence of the military government the infrastructure has deteriorated. We have inherited food deficit and wastefulness. We need serious change in input consumption, infrastructure, export, import and planning.

Human resource is considered a liability but human resource of Pakistan is the greatest resource of the country. We need to have hope in our life and we need to build institutions and technical training. We need security for future of Pakistan so that planning for future could be possible.
We have been in economic and fiscal space. We should look forward to the future. We shall be representing a democratic Pakistan. We are suffering due to geo-political situation.
We need hope education, health future of children not terrorism.

Makhdoom Shahbudin, Minister of Planning and Development also spoke on the occasion. He mentioned that present democratic government is facing crisis after crisis today. For an economy to grow you need peace and tranquility. With the efforts of the government we are now moving towards that direction and it is hoped that we will achieve economic stability with right policies. Government is initiating number of steps which are producing right results. We have an agriculture economy. The support price announced by Prime Minister will affect growth in the agriculture sector. Besides, government is working to bring better agricultural prices to encourage farmers to increase production. Government is taking right steps towards food security.

Dr Rashid Amjad, President, Pakistan Society of Development Economists and Vice Chancellor of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, praised the Prime minister for his support and encouragement in economic policy making. Economists of Pakistan will rise to the trust you have imposed, Dr Rashid Amjad ensured the Prime Minister. He mentioned the challenges we face today. Current financial crisis is the one of the worst since 1930s. Job losses in all countries are now more than ever. According to IMF estimates, 50 million jobs will be lost in near future. This global crisis is a crisis of confidence based on mistaken assumptions. Dr Rashid Amjad talked about 3 Fs crisis, food prices, fuel prices and financial crisis, important to the economy. He said that we must rise to the occasion in such a manner that ensures success.

In the afternoon session, Prof. John W. Mellor delivered his lecture on Agriculture Development and Food Security. He highlighted the evidence of close association between agricultural growth and poverty reduction. According to him, there is a need to explore relationships that lead to policy conclusion for reducing poverty and increasing food security. Half of the population is living in conditions where they could not earn enough to come out from poverty. Land holding are low and people are unable to earn dollar a day. By increasing agricultural production, the income level of people can be raised to bring them out from poverty. Recent situation has created further problems for poor people and food prices have increased their sufferings. Food prices are moving up for real reasons. One of them is the slowing down of the agriculture growth in Pakistan. At the same time demand is pushed up by pressures. He further added that countries have to adjust in supply and demand imbalance by market adjustment mechanisms. The efforts should be made to increase food production because poor cannot be protected unless you increase production.

Food subsidy and rationing are effective way to protect poor. Also dealing with the temporary food problems is essential.

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