INTERVIEW WITH DR. AYUB MEHAR, A RENOWNED RESEARCHER
Apr 16 - 22, 2012
PAGE: TELL ME SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF.
DR. MEHAR: It is a difficult question like asking "Ghalib Kaun Hay ...... Hum Batlain Kia". I have been facing this question at many places: "please introduce yourself", however, I will do my best to mention briefly my experiences and nature of work.
I am in economics and financial research and university teaching since last twenty years. Socio-cultural aspects of the economic policies, technology and business competitiveness, Muslim world's economic issues, macro economic policy analysis, development planning and Corporate Financial Modeling are the areas of my interest. Currently, I am serving as Research Economist/ Council Member Gerson Lehrman Group (World Economic Forum for the study of Political Upheaval and Global Competitiveness). I am also associated with the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry as 'Economic Advisor' and 'Research Professor' in Iqra University Karachi.
Before this, I was also working on various responsible positions in industry, financial markets, and educational institutions in Pakistan. I have served Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) as ŽDirector General (R&D) for three years. I was the founding 'Dean Faculty of Management Sciences' in the Institute of Business and Technology (BIZTEK) for more than 3 years, and launched an international peer reviewed journal - Journal of Management and Social Sciences (JMSS). I am alumni member of the International Academy of Leadership (IAF) Gummersbach Germany, where I completed the training courses in New Public Management including Political Administration. The Technology Policy and Assessment Center at Georgia Institute of Technology awarded membership to me in the distinguished panel of international experts for Indicators of Technology-based Competitiveness Project (Supported by the US National Science Foundation, United States Government). I am author of more than 200 publications and have been carrying out various editorial activities. Most of my research articles have been published by internationally reputed journals including Applied Financial Economics (Oxford / Warwick University), Managerial and Decision Economics (Emory University), Conference proceeding papers of the McGill University, Queens University, Cambridge University, RMIT Australia, Greenwich University England, The Aga Khan University and the other reputable academic institutions. From citation of the research work, impact factor, and domain of references' point of view, he covers a broad area. My research work is available at all well reputed citation indexes and E-libraries including ISI Thomson, RePec, SSRN, CIRANO, MPRA, University of Sussex, INGENTA, INOMICS, GDNET and British Library of Political and Economic Sciences at London School of Economics, and IDE-JETRO. My research work has also been being referred in the research reports, articles and books published by the International Institute of Economics Germany, University of Pennsylvania, doctoral dissertations completed at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology Australia, and many other reputable places. One of my publications on Muslim World was classified as 'leading research article on contemporary issues' by the Global Development Network.
My article "From Knowledge Creation to Economic Development: Missing Links in Muslim World" has been included in the textbook for research studies - From Negations to Negotiations- published from New Delhi. Another article "Mysterious Fluctuations in Economic Development" was included in the book "Global Recession: Cause and Consequences" published from Atlantic Publishers, New Jersey. One of my articles was published in Business Recorder as lead article at main editorial page in six episodes. This was placed at the website of the Ministry of Defense Pakistan. Another article on South Asian Economic Cooperation was published in 1999 and debated on various international channels. This article was widely referred by various Indian authors and journalists. Another article was referred by a leading Indian magazine in its editorial and recommended by the editor of this Mumbai based magazine that Government of India should awake to develop its industry on the lines recommended for Pakistan. Some parts of my 'Regional Notes' on textile economy are placed on US government official website in 'Hot documents'.
PAGE: THE TERM 'CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY' DOES NOT MERELY MEAN DONATION OR CHARITY, BUT TO EXPRESS RESPONSIBILITY AS LAW-ABIDING PRODUCT OR SERVICE PROVIDER ACCOUNTABLE TO SOCIETY. YOUR VIEWS.
DR. MEHAR: The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility is closely related with the principles of sustainable development, which argues that enterprises should make decisions based not only on financial factors such as profit and wealth maximization, but also based on the immediate and long-term social and environmental consequences of their activities. It is a concept that organizations have an obligation to consider the interests of employees, customers, communities and investors and of course ecological considerations in all aspects of their operations. This obligation is seen to extend beyond their statutory obligation to comply with legislation. It is important to distinguish CSR from charitable donations and philanthropy. Corporations have often, in the past, spent money on community projects, the endowment of scholarships, and the establishment of trusts. They have also often encouraged their employees to volunteer to take part in community work and thereby create goodwill in the community, which will directly enhance the reputation of the company and strengthen its brand. CSR goes beyond charity and requires that a responsible company takes into full account its impact on all stakeholders and on the environment when making decisions. This requires the company to balance the needs of all stakeholders with its need to make a profit and reward shareholders adequately. In today's business world, some investors and fund managers have begun to take account of a corporation's CSR policy in making investment decisions (so-called ethical investing). Some nations require CSR reporting, though agreement on meaningful measurements of social and environmental performance is difficult. Many companies cover sustainable development and CSR issues in their annual external audit reports. However, there are several criticisms on those reports e.g. the reports vary widely in format, style, and evaluation methodology, the reports disseminate lip services, and hide the core negative aspects of the unethical industries link Arms and ammunitions manufacturing, Tobbaco and critical drug supplies etc.
CSR activities must have at least as good a return as that these resources could generate if applied anywhere else, e.g. capital or productivity investment, lobbying for tax relief, outsourcing, off-shoring, fighting against unionization, taking regulatory risks, or taking market risks-all of which are frequently-pursued strategies. This means that the possible scope of CSR activities is drastically narrowed. And, corporations, with their constant incentive to maximize profits, often have identified all areas where profits could be increased, including those that have positive external social and environmental outcomes.
PAGE: YOUR VIEWS ON CORPORATE GOVERNANCE IN RELATIONS WITH CSR IN PAKISTAN.
DR. MEHAR: In the post communism regime, the responsibility of economic development has largely been shifted to private sector. The increasing role of private sector enterprises introduced the new concepts of CSR, democratization in business and finance, corporate culture, fair trade, good governance and economic freedom and participation. The extreme capitalism concepts of the wealth maximization, limited liability, separate entity, agency cost, professionalism, and competitiveness were redefined. The implementation of the separate entity concept and the code of corporate governance have become more important in the post communism regime. Now, problems in trade and investment are closely linked with the problems of unemployment, income distribution, poverty, macroeconomic growth, regional and infrastructure development, socio-cultural changes, political structure, and the rate of crimes in a country. Business related issues couldn't be studied in isolation; they are integrated with the sociopolitical dimensions of an economy. Pakistan has no exception where all the governments in the last decade have been launching the privatization, liberalization, and de-regularization policies. The share of government in socioeconomic development is gradually declining. The responsibilities of the several types of development planning are also being shifted from bureaucrats to the technocrats. The political roles and pressures of the armed forces, business leaders, international consultants, technocrats, and community leaders are being reshaped.
In the present transitory condition for globalization, the role and responsibilities of civil servants are also being changed. The financial markets experiences in the Far Eastern and South American countries in recent past have shown that the problems of corporate sector are not only the problems of investors, speculators and stockbrokers, they are also the problems of a common man. The financial problems in corporate sector cannot be segregated from the problems of unemployment, income distribution, poverty, and development. Although, there are no regulatory requirements to implement predefined standards of the CRS in Pakistan, the corporate sector has been participating in the implementations of diversified CSR measures in individual and isolated capacities. Almost all of the NGOs in Pakistan are serving the society with the help of financial resources generated by the local industrialists. Hospitals, educational and training institutions, social clubs, and charitable institutions are included in those organizations. History of business community contribution in the social and economic development of the country has deep roots. The decentralized institutions - the convents, charitable trusts, endowment properties associated with the shrines, educational institutions, community-based groups, tribes' societies, NGOs and the local governments - played important role in post colonial era in the sub continent. One major step taken by the government in this regard is the establishment of the Institute of Corporate Governance. The institute along with SECP is in the process to provide an enabling environment for the implementation of the recently promulgated Code of Corporate Governance. In addition, the SECP intends to promote CSR and Socially Responsible Investing (SRI), so that companies can contribute to sustainable economic development by running their business to achieve economic growth, but at the same time, ensure environmental protection, and protect consumer and other stockholders interest.
PAGE: COULD YOU GIVE YOUR INPUT ABOUT THE NEED OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OF THE COUNTRY?
DR. MEHAR: In the present structure of world's economy, the sustainable development is significantly correlated with the technological advancement and knowledge creating activities. After several experiments and tests of the various economic development models, it is corroborated that sustainable economic development, technological advancement, and knowledge creating activities in a country depend on the strength and gravity of private sector. In the post Soviet world, the private sector is considered not only the single largest contributor in the national exchequer to provide funds for development, it is also the largest provider of employment opportunities and the ultimate beneficiary of the research output. Private sector representative institutions are responsible for intellectual development and policy research to create a dynamic environment for economic and business development.
PAGE: DO YOU THINK WE NEED TO CHANGE THE ROLE OF NATIONAL TRADE ORGANIZATION TO DEVELOP R&D?
DR. MEHAR: Unfortunately, it is a common observation in the developing countries that private sector representative institutions have failed to meet their responsibility of advancement in the intellectual development and policy research. It does not mean the absence of research department or shortage of funds for research activities. The huge funds are spent in the name of research activities, but such activities cannot be transformed into sustainable economic development in the developing countries like Pakistan, because of the misleading perception of R&D activities. This misleading perception has two dimensions: first belongs to the research staff and second is concerned with the governance of the private sector representative organizations. It is noteworthy that the aim of the chamber in contemporary world is not limited to the extent of the protection of business and economic interests of the member organizations.
For instance, the US chamber describes its role as to advance human progress through an economic, political, and social system based on individual freedom, incentive, initiative, opportunity, and responsibility. This aim determines a global role of the United States Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber is staffed with policy specialists, lobbyists and lawyers. It is known for spending more money than any other lobbying organization on a yearly basis. To accomplish its objective, the USCC involves in all policy matters related with the global economic, social, and political systems. To achieve the global agenda, its penetration in the US government and UNO is quite natural. The USCC has aggressively been contributing its role in the developing of the concepts of Corporate Governance, Counterfeiting and Piracy, Economy and Taxes, Education and Workforce Training, Energy, Environment, Friends of the Chamber Government Contracting, Health Care, Homeland Security and Defense Issues, Immigration and International Trade. The Chamber is supportive of immigration reform, supportive of the Ledbetter v. Goodyear decision, Pro-Energy Source Diversity, Pro-Social Security Reform Pro-ANWR Drilling, Pro-Offshore Oil Drilling, Pro-Nuclear Power, Pro-Health Savings Accounts, Pro-globalization/free trade, Supports restrictions on naked short selling, against taxation increase on businesses, against raising the minimum wage, against many union supported polices, anti-environmental regulation, neutral on social questions such as abortion and gay marriage.
The chamber campaigned against portions of the Sarbanes- Oxley Act. The Chamber has recently begun a campaign against the proposed Employee Free Choice Act. The act is widely supported by organized labor. Regardless the views by different analysts on the power and role of the chambers of commerce in governing the global policies, it is clear and obvious that in the regime of free trade and globalization, the role of the chambers has been largely extended. It does not only determine the economic and political trends and growth patterns, it affects also the advancement and governance of the human resources in a country. In these circumstances, trade bodies will have to play important and nontraditional role. They will be major catalyst of economic development. They will not only contribute in the employment generating activities, participation in national exchequer, building of foreign exchange reserves and acceleration in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), they will have to expand their role in the social, political, cultural and ideological development planning. Lobbying, policy advocacy, image building of the country's institutions and products, liaison with the planning authorities and the public policy making institutions, revamping and activation of think tanks, coordination with the public serving organizations, and linkages with the academia and scholastic institutions are integral parts of the research and development activities of the national chambers. Several peripheral functions are also required to perform such activities. Multi-dimensional enhancement in the research activities is a natural consequence of present inclination. In the new world order, the national chambers have to play their role in economic, social, cultural, and political advancements of the nations to a large extent. It requires the redrafting of their visions and objectives by amending their charters and the articles of associations. To apply private sector led economic growth models and to achieve the targets of economic cooperation, the national and regional chambers - including Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry, ECO Chamber of Commerce and Industry, SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry - have to play their influential role.
The objectives cannot be achieved by the political strategies and public policies only. To limit the power of chambers as a body regulated by the ministry of commerce may restrict the role of the chamber to serve as a catalyst for national and regional economic development. It is a great misunderstanding that mere ministry of commerce or commerce related organizations could boost the trade activities; this objective cannot be achieved without the association of the foreign and interior ministries. Communications and transportation authorities are also required for sustainable achievement in this objective. The national and regional chambers can play a role of coordination authority among the concerned ministries and institutions.