INTERVIEW WITH SENATOR GUL MOHAMMAD LOT

KHALIL AHMED
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Apr 18 - 24, 2011

Chairman & Group CEO, Mehran Group of Industries Chairman, Senate Standing Committee on Textile Industry Chairman, Strategic Planning Committee, Pakistan Steel Mills & Member Board of Directors PSM Chairman, Thar Development Committee Member, Senate Standing Committees of: Commerce, Industries & Production, Information & Broadcasting, Ports & Shipping Member of: Mediation Committee of both Houses of the Parliament Member of: Senate Committee on Finance & Staff Welfare

LEADER IN INDUSTRY, POLITICAL SERVICE, & PHILANTHROPY

"Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be." George Sheehan.

Gul Mohammad Lot is a Member of Senate of Pakistan (PPP) and serves as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Textile Industry as well as the Chairman of Mehran Group of Industries, Pakistan's Largest Exporter of Spice, Rice, and Pickles.

Gul Mohammad Lot - being a Pakistani born in the Diplo area of Thar District in Sindh means striving to achieve excellence in every aspect of life. At a very young age, Gul joined his father Ghulam Muhammad Lot in his family business. His father started by launching a Flour Mill and then went on to setting up Mehran Spice & Food Industries. Despite the steady growth of the Lot Family's holdings, Gul Mohammad Lot was encouraged by his father to pursue his studies and completed his bachelors in administration from the London School of Business and later went on to obtain his masters in political science from the University of Sindh, Hyderabad.

Upon returning to Mehran as Director of Administration in 1982, Gul immediately set a course for unheralded achievement and expansion in the industry. After only few years, his efforts began to pay off as Mehran Spice & Food Industries was awarded with the Best Export Performance Trophy in 1985 by the Federation of Pakistani Chambers of Commerce & Industries. Since then, Mehran has won the best export trophy award every year. This year Mehran bagged its 25th Consecutive "Best Exporter" Trophy from FPPCI. Although, Mehran was already recognized as a market leader in Pakistan, Gul Mohammad Lot had bigger plans and a unique vision that saw his company as a global leader. With this in mind, he traveled to Dubai, U.A.E. 1988 and set forth on an unprecedented journey of growth.

After being appointed as Managing Director of Mehran, Gul established state-of-the-art production facilities in Dubai in order to cater and service increasing demand from his Middle Eastern accounts. Within a span of two decades, Gul Mohammad Lot has arrived at commendable heights in his professional career. In 1998, Gul established a state-of-the art Spice & Rice Processing Plant on five acres in Karachi's Korangi Industrial Area. This dynamic facility has since been recognized as one of the most advanced Food Processing Centers in Pakistan. In 2005, after realizing the growing demand for Mehran products in Saudi Arabia, Gul set up a modern Spice Factory in Jeddah, which is amongst the largest in the region. Under Gul Mohammad Lot's management, Maharan's global facilities are mostly automated using leading European equipment, during processing and packing the products are virtually untouched by human hands.

Today, Gul Mohammad Lot serves as Group Chairman with Facilities in Pakistan, Dubai, and Saudi Arabia. Under his strong leadership, Mehran Spice & Food Industries has become Pakistan's Global Leader in the Spice, Rice, & Pickle segment and has become a household name that is associated with quality around the world.

management is doing things right.
leadership is doing the right things.

A religious man is a person who holds God and man in one thought at one time, at all times, who suffers harm done to others, whose greatest passion compassion, whose greatest strength is love and defiance of despair.

As a student of political science and a compassionate patriot, Gul Mohammad Lot answered the call to enter the political service arena in Pakistan as a member of the Pakistan's Peoples Party.

In 1990, he was elected as a MPA Sindh representing his roots from Thar District. Once again, Gul's passion and drive earned him the honour to be appointed as Minister for the Environment where he was committed to the betterment of his constituents and native land. Since then, he has participated actively in Regional and National Politics. In 2001-2007 (Dubai), Gul had the privilege and opportunity to work with late Benazir Bhutto who was the chairperson of the Pakistan People's Party and is the daughter of former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Gul continued to serve his great country under his honorable chairperson who served as a mentor to him enabling him to further hone his professional service skills. In May 2008, Gul Mohammad Lot was appointed as the Advisor to Chief Minster Sindh for Anti-Corruption & enquiries and in March 2009 he was elected as Pakistan's Senator unopposed.

He is also member of the Senate Standing Committees on: Commerce, Industries & Production, Information & Broadcasting, as well as Ports & Shipping. In February 2010, Gul was distinguished with the announcement of his appointment as Chairman of the Thar Development Committee. Thar District is located in the north east of Sindh Province and is home to the great mystic Sufi saints as well as one of the largest coal deposits in the world. With an estimated 1.46 Trillion Metric Tons coal deposits, this region of Pakistan is slated for major development contributing to the significant planned growth for Pakistan's ailing power generation and industrial sectors. This recent appointment further reaffirms Gul Mohammad Lot's integrity as a sought after and admired leader.

Integrity is doing the right thing; even if no one else is watching.

Gul Mohammad Lot has defied the odds and is a true Pakistani leader of industry as well as a dedicated statesman. His courage, passion, and conviction have catapulted him to the forefront of the development of Pakistan's economy.

His relentless commitment and unwavering resolve to improve his homeland has fueled his philanthropic efforts as well. In 2001, Gul Mohammad Lot set up a flourmill in Thar, the only organized industry in Thar district for the sole purpose of providing affordable wheat flour to the people of Thar. Suffering from severe drought, the people of Thar have been extremely convicted. His contribution to business, people, and his country makes him one of the greatest visionaries of Pakistan.

POLITICAL ACHIEVEMENTS

Elected as MPA Sindh - 1990
Served as Minister Environment in Government of Sindh - 1993
Become Member of Sindh Council PPP - 2002
Served as Advisor to CM Sindh for Anti Corruption - 2008
Elected as Senator unopposed - 2009

Here, we have an interview with Gul Mohammad Lot to gain an insight into his views on current affairs and policies of Pakistan and how the present government is doing in the eye of the storm.

PAGE: HOW DO YOU SEE PAKISTAN'S ECONOMIC CRISIS?

GML: The present economic crisis of Pakistan is a result of an undemocratic, regime, which worsened the economic conditions of an already deteriorating State. PPP was able to take the matter into its hands after many struggles and the greatest sacrifice it has seen since the sacrifice of BB. Restoring the economic condition of this country has been our agenda of the highest priorities since we took over office. Even in the face of rising extremism, we have been able to prevent the country from going into a state of economic depression. We have helped the victims of worst flood in the history of Pakistan and face the loss of at least 10-12 billion US dollars. In fact, in a matter of only one year, we brought the economy back on track. To fully restore the economy, the country should give democracy a greater chance.

PAGE: DO YOU THINK THAT THE ECONOMIC CRISIS FACED BY PAKISTAN CAN BE TACKLED?

GML: The government has been taking effective and careful steps to overcome the worst economic crisis that has hit not only Pakistan but the entire world. The global economy is crumbling under the pressure of escalating prices and negative reserves. Petrol prices are on a perpetual rise in the international market and dismal economic situation has stopped investors putting in money into risky ventures. In this situation, the government is holding onto its gains while trying to cut on its losses. A comprehensive plan with step by step resolutions has been initiated by the government and we are very positive of its results. We are currently dealing with the power crisis and trying to meet the gap between demand and supply to overcome shortages and power failures.

PAGE: HAS THE GOVERNMENT TAKEN ANY STEPS TOWARDS POVERTY ALLEVIATION?

GML: The elected government of today is a People's party and our motto has always and will always be: "Rotti, kapra makaan". Addressing the needs of the poor has been our first mission. Several poverty alleviation programs have been undertaken. One of them was initiated under the name of "Benazir Income Support Program". This project was worth a total of Rs70 billion. The "Benazir Employees Stock Option Scheme" is currently active in more than 80 state owned enterprises and has provided 12 per cent shares worth over Rs110 billion to employees free of charge. Among other major projects, "Benazir Green Tractor Scheme" for small farmers is one of them, in addition to the "National Internship Program". Some of the other policies include subsidizing of over 70 utility stores items, revival of trade unions through IRA 2009, increase of minimum workers wages to Rs6,000, extending employment to contractors, restoration of thousands of employees who were laid off in the past, increasing salaries of government employees, increasing the living standards of the poor farmers living in the remote areas of Pakistan by enhancing the prices of various crops.

PAGE: WHAT ACTIONS HAS GOVERNMENT TAKEN FOR REVENUE ENHANCEMENT?

GML: Through the introduction of Reformed General Sales Tax, we are expanding our tax net. We have introduced the social safety net for the first time through Benazir Income Support Program. A number of steps are also being taken to include the agriculture sector in the tax net. At the moment, our tax net comprises only 1.1 per cent of the population, whereas in India it is 17 per cent. We need to increase the tax net to minimum of 10 per cent, in the next two years. FBR has been assigned the task to achieve this target.

I personally feel that under the prevailing volatile law and order situation in the country, we do not have any other option to improve our economic situation except to broaden the tax net.

PAGE: HOW HAVE THE FLOODS AFFECTED THE COUNTRY?

GML: The massive floods have wreaked havoc to the lives of over 20 million people leaving 1,539 people dead and the rest homeless. As the water receded, millions are faced with a greater problem of re-establishing livelihoods. With over 2.6 million acres of agricultural land affected by the floods, Pakistan is standing at a loss of over 2.35 billion dollars worth of crops. Reports show that 500,000 tons of stored wheat and 2 million bales of cotton have been ruined. The floods have set us back by years in terms of economics.

PAGE: BRIEFLY TELL US SOME OF THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE PPP GOVERNMENT SINCE IT HAS TAKEN CHARGE?

GML: The PPP Government under the leadership of President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has made various significant achievements with outstanding results for this country.

One of the historic achievements of the government has been the NFC Award after over 19 years of stalemate which was based on a multiple criteria and the passing of the 18th and 19th Constitutional Amendment through a national consensus. Both have contributed towards enhancing the provincial autonomy and balanced distribution of resources amongst the provinces, which is in line with PPP's policies.

We have successfully included the Revenue Generation and Collection as a criteria for resource distribution and sales tax is being collected on services. With effective fiscal policies and financial management, we have been able to stop the economy to downslide further.

This government has been battling the extremist elements in the country with great confidence and determination. We have established that Pakistan is a terrorism free country, which has no tolerance for extremist movements.

The Benazir Youth Development Program has trained over 100,000 youngsters under Sindh government led by Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah. This program has addressed the issues of poverty and unemployment in the country and has helped making the youth part of the skilled workforce. These trainings have helped many to earn temporary incomes immediately while embarking on better ventures in the future. According to a study, more than 27 per cent have become self-employed or have been hired from the first batch, which completed training in 2010. The World Bank has appreciated this program and shown confidence by committing US$16 million in the next year in this regard.

The Benazir Income Support Program has proved to be one of the most successful programs ever introduced in the country to reduce poverty. This initiative invests into strengthening workers base by offering 12 per cent shares of companies to workers. Similarly, under the Behan Benazir Basti Program, UNDP statistics show that 10,000 houses have been constructed in the rural areas with the help of City Society Organization and around 400 houses have been constructed in Badin, Thatta and Karachi. In addition to short term measures, the present government has also launched new policies in the field of education, textile, power, petroleum and natural resources.

To upholster peace in the country, President Asif Ali Zardari extended his apologies to the people of Balochistan for the injustices meted out to them during the past non-democratic regimes and promised to restore the rights of the people of Balochistan through Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan. During the joint sitting of the Parliament, a 39-point initiative with constitutional, political, administrative and economic reforms won confidence of people from all walks of life including the nationalist leadership of Balochistan. This has restored the trust of the people of Balochistan in Pakistan, which was shattered over the years by the policies that greatly marginalized them.

In the memory of late Benazir Bhutto, an Employees Stock Option Scheme has been introduced, transferring 12 per cent shares to workers, in state run enterprises. It will benefit 500,000 families.

Two Pakistan-EU Summits have been held so far. Long-term cooperation with the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain has helped in advancing our economic agenda. The West has promised to decrease levy on the imports from Pakistan. This will help us to boost our exports in order to achieve our target of 25 billion dollars before 2015.

In the memory of late Benazir Bhutto the cause of women empowerment and poverty reduction is very dear to us. Over 74 billion rupees have been disbursed to the poor beneficiaries, through the BISP.