INTERVIEW WITH MR. AMIN HASHWANI, A MAN OF HIGH CALIBRE

KHALIL AHMED
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Nov 5 - 11, 2012

PAGE: TELL ME SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF, PLEASE?

AMIN HASHWANI: I belong to a business family and for over a decade have been involved in various social initiatives nationally and internationally including peace building, youth, health, education, and social reform. After a certain stage in life adding more digits to ones bank account loses its meaning unless there is a higher purpose. If we believe in a meritocratic society then leaving large amounts of assets only for one's immediate off -springs also does not make sense. We need to share and apply not only our accumulations but also our knowledge, skills, know how, and unique insights for the greater good of the society. Because the NGO sector in my opinion is highly inefficient and bureaucratic, and a high percentage of the resources cater to the inflated overhead costs and lengthy compliant procedures and we loose sight of our customer, who are the underprivileged section of our community and not the donor agencies or the government that gives the money. We in the business community have a unique opportunity and also obligation to use our resources and business skills in solving the various socio-economic issues that we face. Governments or the establishments on their own do not have the capacity or know how to do it.

PAGE: HOW WOULD YOU COMMENT ON CURRENT ECONOMIC SCENARIO IN PAKISTAN?

AMIN HASHWANI: If we observe the key indicators of the last two and a half decades of the country, be it health, education, poverty, child mortality, per capita energy and water availability etc most of them are on a decline. It does not take a rocket scientist to predict what's going to happen if these trends continue in the next two to three decades when we will be a 300 million population nation. We cannot and should not treat this as a case of 'business as usual' and continue doing what we are doing, in the false hope that things will somehow automatically change, or that democracy will sort itself out, or that some 'new' leader will descend upon us and change our destiny. Even God helps does who help themselves. Hence personally I am worried because we still as a nation (or our leaders for that matter) have not focused or collectively worked on the vital issues that will determine the future course of our country. The constant state of conflict has also not helped the situation and we are stilled marred in blame games and conspiracy theories. Very few people I see around standing up and speaking about the issues that really matter to our nation, instead of playing upon popular sentiments, emotive non-issues, and false drummed-up pride. The problem is systemic and I feel the media need to play a vital role to change this paradigm. Occasionally I do see that occurring and it gives me a great hope that it can be done only if we work for it collectively and more consistently.

PAGE: CAN PAKISTAN LIVE WITH SELF RELIANCE WITHOUT GETTING HELP FROM IMF AND OTHER AGENCIES?

AMIN HASHWANI: Not only Pakistan but I believe that any country in the world can be self reliant and prosperous, only if it learns to live with itself as a pluralistic society with good governance. Today in human history we are at a unique point where we have the resources and the know-how to solve each and every of the major problems that we face, if only we learn to work together. This is true for global communities and for nations as well. If Japan and Germany after being devastated post World War 2 cold rise in just a few decades to become major global economies, then am sure anyone else can also do it. What's interesting is that Japan did it with almost no natural resources or advantages. Pakistan Mashallah has great potential which it can tap into to solve almost all of its major economic issues, from power generation, water, agriculture, exports, human resource, youth bulge etc. But it is vital that we tap into them and convert them into actual benefits for our population. Otherwise graveyard is full of people who had great potential.

PAGE: YOUR VIEWS ON INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL DEBT AS WELL AS FUTURE STRATEGY OF PAKISTAN FOR BETTER ECONOMIC PICTURE:

AMIN HASHWANI: The internal or external debt situation in itself is not the issue. It is indicative of a host of a lager fundamental problem which we need to tackle. From governance, to resource generation and its mobilisation, to corruption, to human resource development, to education, to skill development, to conflict resolution, to population planning etc. The good news is that all this can be initiated in a short span of three years with proper management, and the fruits of which we could see in decades to come. The sad part is that we have not even begun as a nation to seriously, collectively and sincerely tackle them. The fact that we are going to miss most of our Millennium Development Goals is indicative of where we stand.

PAGE: YOUR COMMENTS ON EXPORT AND IMPORT:

AMIN HASHWANI: Again my answer would be same as above. We need to get to the root cause and start solving them before expecting any fruits. The problem is that these issues have long gestation periods and politicians do have the appetite to selflessly divert precious resources and invest in them for the long run, which might be unpopular in the immediate. That is where leadership comes in. Unfortunately we lack leadership, like most developing countries, and it is not only political but also societal and for which we need to blame only over selves.

PAGE: WHAT NEW DEVELOPMENTS MUST BE MADE IN THE TAXATION SYSTEM OF PAKISTAN?

AMIN HASHWANI: Pakistan has one of the worse tax to GDP ratios in the world of any nation of its size. Which in my opinion is shameful we need to be bold and take drastic action against a host of vested interests if are to see any meaningful results in the near future. Bandage solutions or cosmetic improvements will not cut us a deal. Otherwise we will always be gasping for additional resources for development and job creation while being buried under heavy debts or external payouts which compromise our national interests. There are no shortcuts unfortunately and at some point we need to bite the bullet. Everyone wants to go to heave but no one wants to die.