Pakistan's first national textile policy is due to be unveiled at the end of this month after being approved by the Prime Minister and the cabinet.

The National Textile Industrial Policy of Pakistan has been prepared in consultation with textile and clothing stakeholders and trade associations as well as foreign consultants, and is aimed at improving the textile and clothing industry's international competitiveness.

Projects are likely to focus on improving the domestic weaving sector, setting up textile industry clusters, industrial cities and parks, and improving research and development.

The formation of the national textile policy falls under the remit of the Textile Ministry, which was established in September 2004 with the aim of addressing long-term textile industry issues.

In order to have a clear understanding of these main issues, the Ministry also assigned a benchmarking study of different segments of the industry to consultants Werner International.

The study covers the ginning, spinning, weaving, processing, knitwear, woven garments, Socks, towelling, and denim sectors.

So far the spinning, weaving, and knitwear sectors have been analysed and the study concludes that these industries in Pakistan lack labour productivity, quality control, maintenance services, and environmental care systems.

In addition, the lack of an efficient infrastructure and minimal support from the government are other impediments to the growth of the country's textile and clothing industry.

Pakistan's textile and clothing sectors have also been hit hard by the abolition of quotas between WTO members at the end of 2004, and are lagging behind neighbouring Bangladesh and India in the international market.

Over the past six years (2000-2005) the Pakistan textile industry has invested US$6bn, but changes in government monitory policy and an inadequate infrastructure have halted further investment.

Nearly half of this funding has gone on the spinning and yarn sector (47%), followed by weaving (26%) and textile processing (11%). Knitwear and ready-made garments have received just 5% and 7% respectively.

To restore the investment momentum, the proposed textile policy is also likely to address medium to long-term structural issues of the textile industry including the availability of raw material, human resources, infrastructure development, attracting foreign direct investment, and reducing costs.

The Pakistan government expects another US$7.7bn in textile and clothing industry investment over the next five years, boosting exports to US$24bn by the financial year 2013-14.

However, this increased level of exports would require the development of complimentary infrastructure and transport facilities.