Govt must hunt for transparent, friendly and consistent policies to lure investment
Interview with Muhammad Abdul Aleem – CEO, Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Muhammad Abdul Aleem is a Fellow Chartered Accountant (Gold Medalist) and a Cost and Management Accountant with over 40 years of experience in senior management positions in leading multinational and national companies. Mr Aleem served in a senior executive role in Exxon Chemicals Pakistan, now Engro Corporation, for over 16 years before joining Pakistan Tobacco which led him to move to British American Tobacco subsidiaries overseas as a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for operating companies in Indo-China and Indian Ocean region.
On return to Pakistan in 2004, Mr Aleem has worked in leadership positions for leading Government of Pakistan (GoP) corporations and his last assignment was as Managing Director, Pakistan State Oil Company.
Currently, he is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Secretary General of Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI).
Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI):
OICCI is the largest chamber of commerce in Pakistan in terms of economic contributions. It is the collective voice of top 200 foreign investors in Pakistan who are consistently contributing significantly in the economic development of the country.
PAGE: Your views on investment in Pakistan:
ABDUL ALEEM: Pakistan or for that matter any country, will not be able to attract investment just because it is facing serious economic challenges of sustained negative Balance of Trade and Balance of Payments. Investment by both local and foreign investors is attracted by the opportunity for growth, the ease of doing business conditions and above all attractive incentive and business friendly policies, which are predictable, transparent and consistent and are implemented and delivered as promised. If we are able to deliver on above parameters soon, we have the potential to attract investment.
PAGE: What do you think is the missing point in terms of poor investment by the leading investors of the world with regard to Pakistan?
ABDUL ALEEM: Pakistan is a land of opportunities and has many positives to attract investment both from local and foreign investors. In my view the key constraints are 1) poor perception of Pakistan internationally which is worse than the reality; 2) very low rating on World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business; 3) inconsistent policies and its below par implementation, examples are many but the delayed tax refunds, ever-changing taxation policies, interprovincial coordination issues are some of the examples. Moreover, there appears to be a lack of appreciation and encouragement to investors; sometime one can see an element of envy with those local or foreign investors who have done well. There is an urgent need for the media and the society at large to appreciate that if we do not encourage investment we will have serious problem of unemployment and resource mobilization going forward.
PAGE: What are the enormous challenges being faced by the newly-established government?
ABDUL ALEEM: The government has already shared the key challenges of depleting foreign exchange reserves, poor mobilization of revenue as a large segment of the population is not paying taxes due to the government, and many other issues which need correction. We expect the government to take bold measures and that all political parties will support in the national interest in implementing bold but painful policies required for economic recovery.
The government, I hope, is aware that there is widespread expectation that it will soon unveil growth-oriented economic and trade strategies, with some bold and out-of-box initiatives to diversify exports, boost local manufacturing instead of imports and attract sizeable FDI and local investment, all of which are critical to revitalize the economy and put the country back on a fast track of economic growth.
PAGE: Your comments on the trickle-down effects of the current economic policies:
ABDUL ALEEM: We expect that after some initial period of adjustment and pain due to weakening of the currency and other economic measures being taken to put the economy on the recovery track and assuming that all these policies will be supported in national interest, there will be improved opportunity for all in the country to prosper and contribute to the society.