The government has assured Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) of full support in the manufacturing and marketing of engineering and surgical products, however, no incentive package is currently under consideration for the sector.
This was confirmed by the federal minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry and chairman PEC Javed Qureshi. The engineering sector has the potential to reduce reliance on imports but at the same time can contribute to the country’s economy by increasing exports. However it has been neglected, Qureshi added.
The federal minister said that the engineering sector is very lucrative and enjoying tax incentives like duty concessions on the imports of raw materials and inputs. There is huge potential in this sector which can not only meet domestic requirements but can contribute to the country’s economy by increasing exports, he added.
Replying to a question, the minister said that a large number of ventilator designs were received where one design was selected. The coronavirus testing kits developed by National University of Science and Technology (NUST) have been handed to the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) for final approval. PEC has developed ventilators, in collaboration with NED and Pakistan Engineering Board, which will be handed over to DRAP this week.
The minister said that he is in talks with various ministries and is hopeful that the products will hit the market in the coming days.
“The locally-produced ventilators will be available in the market in a month,” said the minister adding that the locally-produced material would be as per the international standards. He further said that the kits and ventilators will be three-times cheaper than those purchased from abroad.
Chairman PEC said that the design of ventilator has been approved and currently is on a trial basis. The government has assured the Council of full support in this regard. He said that after meeting the local demand, the ventilators can be exported as well, as it will be as per the international standard. He said that the ventilator would cost around $2000 to $3000.
Replying to a question, Qureshi said that the engineering sector has been neglected in the country which has huge potential and could contribute to the country’s economy enormously. He said if the government focuses on engineering development, it would contribute much more than other industries.
The Engineering Development Board (EDB) needs to follow other developed countries’ models and focus on the local engineering industry to reduce reliance on imports. EDB could promote the industry that could prove instrumental in product and market diversification, which was critical for the growth of exports, he added.
Senior officials at the Ministry of Science and Technology and surgical goods exporters said that Pakistan possesses huge potential for engineering and surgical products exports and can contribute to minimizing coronavirus (COVID-19) implications but low research and development (R&D) budget, industry linkages and lack of ownership by the top authorities are hindering prospects.
Pakistan is currently spending an alarmingly low percentage of 0.00025% of GDP on Science and Technology and its attached departments. The government allocated Rs. 1.3 billion for 23 projects of the Science and Technology Ministry under the Public Sector Development Program for 2019-20 while Rs. 6.107 billion was earmarked for eight projects of the task force.
Pakistan Council of Renewable Energy Technologies (PCRET) official said that the department has promoted renewable energy in the country but did not get a single project under the PSDP during the last 8 years. There is a lack of coordination among different organizations/departments.
The ministry and its allied departments lack the capacity to utilize its funds efficiently, which is negatively affecting the R&D sector and hence the country has to rely on huge imports.
The official said reforms in the area of science and technology have made strategic locations and availability of natural resources irrelevant for many countries and success in science and technology has proved to be a decisive factor in the progress and development of many countries.
Another official revealed that 11 organizations working under the Ministry of Science and Technology have been without heads for long, causing severe difficulties in pursuance of official and administrative matters. The performance of the majority of the departments working under the ministry has not been up-to-the-mark as officers from other departments have been given the look-after charge of organizations, he added.
The organizations without chairmen include Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR), Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR), Pakistan Council for Science and Technology (PCST), Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF), Pakistan National Accreditation Council (PNAC), Pakistan Council for Renewable Energy Technologies (PCRET), National Institute of Electronics (NIE), National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Council for Work and Housing Research (CWHR), STEDEC Technology Commercialization Corporation of Pakistan (Private) Limited and Pakistan Halal Authority (PHA).
Fazal Jilani, former chairman Surgical Instruments Manufacturers Association said that Pakistan lacks latest technology as well as technical experts for surgical products manufacturing.
“The surgical industry has huge potential to increase exports and create job opportunities but due to lack of markets and products’ diversification and ignorance and disinterest from authorities are major hindrances in achieving the desired results”, said Jilani, adding that Laryngoscope is being manufactured in Sialkot and has huge exports potential, but is not getting required marketing assistance.