Chairperson, National Tariff Commission (NTC), Ms Robina Ather, has said that the government has taken several policy initiatives to provide relief to trade sector to reduce the impacts of Covid-19. While these initiatives have been based on past learning and evidence however the capacity of using research and evidence in the public sector needs to be enhanced for more impactful measures. She said this while sharing his views at online public private dialogue ‘How evidence on Covid-19 is being used to support the trade sector?’ organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), here on Wednesday.
“We need to develop in-house capacity for evidence-use but the lack of finance and funding for such measures has been a major constrain,” She said while adding further that the greater political will is need of the hour to support capacity building of the government. Moreover, efforts are required for more closer interaction between evidence users and producers.
Ms Claire Hutchings, Team Leader, SEDI program, Oxford Policy Management (OPM), UK, was of view that we need to align research and evaluation with the problems being faced by policy makers. Likewise, the policy makers should be asked about what evidence they require and then build research program around this. During the pandemic time, there is a high degree of uncertainty and ambiguity all around and thus, it is important to understand the changing questions of decision-makers and contextualize evidence.
Senior Economist, The World Bank, Mr Gonzalo Varela, on the occasion informed the participants that data is there but it is not made available to the right users. The recent census of manufacturing industries is required for more useful research and policy decisions. He added further that we cannot confuse lobbying power with reality and thus, need to be careful in selecting stakeholders who benefit from trade promotion schemes.
Dr Vaqar Ahmed, Joint Executive Director, SDPI, while moderating the dialogue, said that there is a gradual emergence of evidence explaining how the pandemic has impacted economic growth and trade. However, it is not clear at this point that how the public sector decision-makers are using this recent evidence.
“We also need to know that what type of evidence has proven most useful during the first and second waves of COVID-19 and it requires in-depth discussion with decision makers,” Dr Ahmad said. He added further that we also need to discuss which channels of communicating evidence that were most helpful during the COVID-19 outbreak. In the trade sector, he said, understanding the factors which could hinder the implementation already approved policies, for example, National Tariff Policy, e-commerce policy etc, is quite important.
Ms Tayyaba Batool, while representing Ministry of Commerce, opined that the trade sector is being regarding as an ‘essential service’ sector during the pandemic. Therefore, the government has taken steps to ensure that trade continues smoothly, and exports are not hurt due to any supply chain disruptions. Ministry of Commerce is supporting transit trade for Afghanistan despite the Covid-19 outbreak. For this we are working closely with NCOC. Pakistan’s commercial officers posted abroad were sending reports on daily basis to help exporters, she added.
Mr Naveed Aziz, Governance Advisor, UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), highlighted that frequent turnover of civil service could hurt the sustainability of research and evidence reforms in the public sector. This matter needs to be addressed under the overall set of civil service and institutional reform initiatives by the government