INTERVIEW: SYED MOHIBULLAH SHAH, CHIEF EXECUTIVE TDAP
'EXPORTS CAN CROSS $100B TARGET IN NEXT TEN YEARS'
Dec 14 - 20, 2009
Syed Mohibullah Shah, Chief Executive Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) on the back of vast experience in strategic planning and business development to his credit was quite confident while talking about economic potential of the country during an interview with Page.
Having his training association with the prestigious MIT & McGill and extensive exposure to the international trade spanning over 30 years, TDAP Chief dilated upon existing and untapped potential areas that Pakistan has in plenty. If we capitalize on available resources with a focus on value addition, there should be no doubt that our exports can cross the psychological barriers to grasp over $100 billion in next few years.
Syed Mohibullah Shah observed that unfortunately instead of diversifying our export basket we heavily relied upon cotton and textile exports, which imply proverbially putting all eggs in one basket, despite having a variety of opportunities to grab our share in the huge global export market.
He has accomplished specialized trainings and hands-on experiences in strategic planning, market analysis, competitive positioning for trade & investment development, corporate & public governance, corporate and securities laws, settlement of international business, trade & investment marketing, mergers & acquisitions, privatization and corporate restructuring, managing large and complex organizations, contract negotiations and problem solving, organizing international conferences and trade exhibitions, and business missions.
Syed Mohibullah Shah has a strong desire to utilize his experiences to give a new direction to the export regime of Pakistan.
His impressive academic profile comprises of masters in international business from MIT Sloan School of management, Cambridge Massachusetts USA, masters in industrial planning & development from Cambridge, a degree in mergers & acquisitions and corporate governance from McGill University, Montreal Canada, besides degrees from different universities in Pakistan.
Syed Mohibullah has an ambitious plan to use every potential area for the good of the economy particularly to enhance exports from the country.
The professional exposure as the chairman CASA economic forum Toronto/Pakistan, chief of the board of investment, chairman & CFO Port Qasim Authority and working experience on prime positions in government set up, invest a great amount of buoyancy in his professional leadership.
'LOOK EAST STRATEGY' VALID FOR PAKISTAN
The marketing strategy chalked out by TDAP has a great focus on Asian countries. We are sending as well as inviting trade delegations from Asian countries besides holding exhibitions to introduce our products in the Asian region. Besides these efforts, we are working on establishing warehouses in different countries to facilitate the exporters to grab a major share from China, Russia, Central Asia because Pakistani products are still new to these markets.
The first thing we are doing in TDAP is to facilitate Pakistan's trades look towards Asia. He recalled that there were times when there was a fad "Look East" but, he added, look East strategy is still valid for Pakistan to find huge markets of China, Russia and central Asia.
The second part of the strategy is to protect the existing market and our stakes in the United States and Western countries especially in European Union.
As far as central Asian countries are concerned, we have to develop products according to their needs keeping in view of weather conditions in the region. However, a huge untapped market is available in central Asia because they don't have production facilities at present.
Sharing his recent experience in Al-Maty, he said that they are importing everything from different countries at high price, which is ten times more than what can be offered in Pakistan. On the other hand, Pakistan has a great advantage of geographical closeness with the Asian countries and that advantage needs to be utilized.
He point out that fresh fruits like mangoes, banana citrus fruits, seafood etc. have a big market in Asian states. In fact, they are new market with enormous buying potential. TDAP is in the process of devising aggressive marketing campaign in this region, he disclosed.
As far as conventional markets are concerned, we are in dialogue with European Union for enhanced market access and they are being convinced that Pakistan deserves a better market access as compared to others. 'We are pleading for the same treatment what EU gives to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and India.'
He disclosed that there is a great possibility of engaging lobbying firms in USA and EU to get better market access in those countries because lobbying has become a major instrument for achieving the desired results and getting better response from the decision makers.
COST OF DOING BUSINESS
When his attention was invited towards ever-increasing cost of inputs and cost of doing business in Pakistan, especially energy and petroleum prices which are rendering our products uncompetitive in the world market, he took a pause and said that government was already conscious of that irritant while we also kept on recommending steps to reduce cost of production.
He conceded that cost of energy and cost of financing are too high in Pakistan, which consequently increase the cost of production. He said that because of rising inflation the central bank had to opt for a tight monetary policy, however since the inflationary pressures have started showing a declining trend the interest is also on decline accordingly. TDAP has recommended to the government that interest rate should be brought down to a single digit.
He was of the firm opinion that the lower the cost of finance higher the expansion of business. The high rate of interest has affected negatively various products in the market and if the interest rate comes down to 5 percent the products would naturally be in demand. We would like to have a single digit interest rate.
VIOLENCE AND LAW & ORDER
When asked for his standpoint on despite all efforts of inviting delegations most of the buyers preferred to stay in Dubai for business talks and private representatives had to go there for holding talks, he did not agree. He said despite difficult situation we have to project our products and have to let people know that Pakistan is open for business. 'It is very important.'
We are trying to convey the message at every forum and every meeting abroad that this country is open for business. He mentioned about the forthcoming EXPO Pakistan scheduled for February. He said that last year over 550 foreign buyers participated in EXPO Pakistan while the situation in the country was not much different from what it is today.
Despite the law and order problems foreign delegates arrived in Pakistan from different countries, which issue advises to their citizens not to travel Pakistan. For example, delegations came from the US, Britain, France, Germany, and other developed countries and this year too the number of arrivals is expected to exceed from what it was last year, he said with great confidence.
Apart from marketing efforts, we are putting our house in order and have got approval of 12 projects from the government for value addition in non-traditional items, and currently these 12 projects are available for investment.
In this regard, a plant is coming up in mango pulp processing, packaging and canning of juices. In fact, there are two mango projects, which are in the pipeline in Multan and Nawabshah. These are our practical projects in accordance with WTO quality specifications. Another project of agro-food technology institute is being set up in Lahore. This institute would help developing food-processing technology instead of exporting raw food. A date processing plant is being developed in Khairpur. This project will work for value addition of dates including paste and juices of dates. Another plant is suggested for Hyderabad for drying the rose petals, which have a great market abroad. A red chili project has been planned in Kunri, which is largest producer of red chili in the world. The plant would dry chili and convert it into chili powder and packaging, which again has a great demand in certain countries. We are undertaking projects in Peshawar and Quetta in fact all over the country wherever the export potential is available.
As far as export of rice is concerned, Pakistan exported rice worth $2 billion last year, and this year the target is of around 4 million tons, he said, however it would be premature to assess rice export in terms of value as price is determined by the world trade, which varies according to market demand.
'If we strengthen our efforts to enhance exports, the $100 billion export target will be achievable within ten years,' he said with confidence.
PAKISTAN'S LIQUID FOREIGN RESERVES POSITION
The total liquid foreign reserves held by the country stood at $ 13,572.1 million on 5th December, 2009.
The break-up of the foreign reserves position is as under: -