INTERVIEW WITH LAL DINO MARI BALOCH, CHIEF EXECUTIVE BIZZ & TRADE INTERNATIONAL LTD.
Jan 9 - 15, 2012
PAGE: TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF.
MARI BALOCH: I was born in Khairphur Mirs in a political/landlord family. I involved myself in business instead of politics. My 23 years of experience in doing business in various fields at international level enhanced my capabilities to understand the global business matters. I am based in Hong Kong and having few companies in other countries. I am engaged in coalmining, iron ore mining, teak wood plantation, biodiesel production and some property businesses in Indonesia.
I am one of the directors of a private company in the United Kingdom, which is in financial consultancy business since 1992.
We are one of the top 10 private manufacturing companies in Guangdong-China for petrochemical equipment, power plant equipment, ethylene plant equipment, and fertilizer plant equipment. I have two holding companies in Hong Kong and one leading import/export company namely Bizz & Trade International Ltd., which controls all major operations throughout the world.
I was the youngest representative among 116 delegates from 56 countries representing Pakistan in 1991 in the Netherlands. On and off, I led various delegations from the mainland China and Hong Kong to Pakistan, especially to solve the energy crisis in Pakistan. I remained one of the leading exporters of agriculture products from Pakistan to Europe, the Middle East and the Far East markets. I would say, I am a research-orientated person who is always eager to learn the new ideas related to business and financial markets. For me, my priority is my family. I prefer to spend all my spare time with my family. I am married with a Chinese lady and such is wonderful and joyous change in my traditional family structure. I like playing golf, and go for swimming.
PAGE: YOUR VIEWS ABOUT EXPORT PROSPECTS OF PAKISTAN THIS FISCAL?
MARI BALOCH: Well, as far as this fiscal is concerned, I would say Pakistan's economy is in such a poor condition where we have to make the strategies on short-term and long-term basis. The short-term planning may be yearly, and long-term basis planning should be well-planned with our think tanks. In this regard, my group of companies would extend full assistance. As everyone knows, the energy crisis, law and order situation, unemployment, less foreign investment and the lack of international community's trust, create lot of economical crisis in Pakistan, compelling local entrepreneurs to relocate abroad. It is very important for the federal government to strengthen the federation to take on board all provincial authorities to make comprehensive financial policies, which may provide short-term oxygen. That can be very beneficial to the local business entrepreneurs and at the same time it will build up overseas business community's trust stronger then ever.
Export prospects depend on those issues which are mentioned earlier. Due to energy crisis, our local manufacturing industry is almost collapsed. Hence, we are unable to fulfill domestic needs and such worsening situation has affected exports. That situation has led to a huge importation to just fulfill our domestic needs and it is difficult reduce trade deficit.
Due to the mismanagement, the import duties are not properly collected and that causes revenue generation gap. Transit trade is also heavily affecting our economy due to ineffective border checks and items are resoled in Pakistan. It is still the responsibility of the government, local business community and overseas Pakistani business community to make a possible short term export plan to make the economy attain sustainable growth.
Pakistan has lot of mineral resources and various types of raw materials, which can be easily exported this fiscal year. Any negligence or ignorance may cause economical problems. The solution of this problem is an urgent need of the hour.
PAGE: HOW COULD PAKISTAN ATTRACT EXPORT ORDERS?
MARI BALOCH: With well planning, it is easy to attract the orders for export, and with good strategy, the positive results can be achieved. Pakistan organizes expo events every year, which are ideal platforms to build overseas buyers' trust. I came to know that after expo event, the follow-ups are ignored by the Pakistani exporters, which are the negative practices. Our trade missions aboard are not much affectively highlighting the trade issues. Most of the trade missions are mostly busy with VIPs receptions and daily routine internal office issues. I didn't see any particular support which they could properly provide to the small and medium size enterprises. It is the government's responsibility to tighten up the trade mission's commercial activities to achieve the immediate positive results. Overseas Pakistani community especially that is engaged in businesses, can be the hottest target to attract the export orders. In this lieu, I observed most of the Pakistani business people are not getting any good assistance from their own country's trade offices. They are more dependent on their some own connections and resources in Pakistan from where they can import the needed products and some how they are generating the revenue for their motherland.
Moreover, having all those internal problems resolved, the exporters may assure the quality, the delivery time and competitive prices, which may further increase orders for export.
PAGE: WHICH COULD BE THE NEW MARKETS FOR PAKISTANI PRODUCTS?
MARI BALOCH: As I said earlier that Pakistan has huge potential to export the local products which are in demand abroad. China is the second largest economy in the world these days. But, just as its exports gigantically, it also imports raw materials in bulk. Because of industrial manufacturing, its service industry is also very strong. As I have said earlier due to the internal problems, Pakistan has a weakening service sector, which can be boomed up if the security concern is resolved.
Pakistani minerals such as iron-ore, chromites, and precious gems may get a good market in China and Hong Kong. African continent is a huge market for Pakistani rice, medicines, textiles, shoes, and household appliances. Pakistani companies are the quality manufacturers of surgical goods, which can be more widely marketed in Europe and the Far East markets. The Middle East is one of the nearest markets for our fruits and vegetables.
Due to rapid growth in construction business in the Middle East, it has proven a very good opportunity for Pakistani furniture and interior decoration designers also. South America is also a good market for leather goods, textiles, shoes, and medicines.
PAGE: WHAT MUST BE DONE TO INCREASE EXPORTS OF NONTRADITIONAL PRODUCTS?
MARI BALOCH: Pakistan has signed free trade agreements with China, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. There is huge potential to increase exports of nontraditional products. For example, Malaysia needs a lot of textiles/raw materials such as raw cotton, cotton yarn and other relevant products. China has a very small quantity of cotton crops. Thus, it is a very attractive market for our cotton yarn. Sri Lanka is also in a need of medicines and fashionable garments and accessories. Most of the tropical countries lack textile raw materials. On the other side, Pakistan's cotton crop growers are deprived of reasonable cotton rates. There is a huge difference between demand and supply. Market is there, buyer is there, sellers are available also, but the business trends and techniques are not fully utilized. The government is not encouraging growers, traders, manufacturers and exporters to approach those markets in a proper way and in a real time. A comprehensive strategic business plan is urgently needed at this stage. In this regard, our group may play a key role to help the government and private sector.
PAGE: WHICH SECTORS COULD GIVE BETTER RETURNS TO THE EXPORTERS?
MARI BALOCH: If we are talking about the manufacturing products to be exported, then our energy sector should be considered on the top priority. This sector in our economy is directly and indirectly affecting industrial exports. Industrial exporters may get better returns once they are able to manufacture the goods and it can be only possible when energy crisis are overcome. Another issue is the balancing of the taxes and import tariffs, which should be modified with immediate effect. Another problem with our exporters is their travel access to other countries. Most of our business entrepreneurs always suffer in travel access problems due to lot of formalities and restrictions to obtain the necessary visas to travel to meet up with their buyers. Pakistani travelers are getting restricted by many countries, with each passing day. Our foreign offices should have a clear stand and vision to settle these issues immediately so that our business community may get self-respect during travelling. I wonder the countries smaller in economic size have their local travelers accessed to convenient visa facilities and entries/exits.
Our engineering sector is quite capable and it is doing quality work. Government should strengthen this sector and may establish some state-owned companies, which can obtain international contracts/projects and thus our exporters can get better returns to supply the needed products in such projects. The private sector may also join in such projects. As I have said earlier, our agriculture sector is the key to economic growth. Surplus perishable items and grains may be exported to the overseas markets round the year.