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Muhammad Yakub Karim

For the record
Muhammad Yakub Karim
Science & Technology
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Feb 21 - 27, 2000

Muhammad Yakub Karim is currently Chairman of All Pakistan Soap Manufacturers' Association. He was also Chairman of SITE Association of Industry for the year 1995-96. He was born in 1944. He did his B. Sc. (Hons) from Karachi University in 1969 and B.S. in Chemical Engineering from South Dakota, USA in 1972. He has 3 years experience of working with a manufacturing company in the USA. He is Life Member of Pakistan Association of Science and Scientific Professions and Council Member of the Institute of Engineers of Pakistan. He has also represented Pakistan at Economic Committee, General Assembly of United Nations.

PAGE: What is your impression about the current state of the economy?

KARIM: Our economy lacks directions and targets. The result is obviously unstability and confidence gap between economy nurturing centre and the Government. The new economic managers have realized the widening gap. It appears that they are making efforts to put the economy on the track of fast development. This may also be said that the new economic managers are endeavouring to protect ttheir policy decisions through legal and constitutional covers. All these efforts have created optimism among the business community. These measures include broadening of the tax net as well as bringing the agriculture income into the tax net. At the same time they are trying to minimize dependence on the assistance from multilateral and bilateral lenders. Therefore, I am optimistic, if the policies are followed strictly and continuously, we will be able to acquire a niche position among the developing nations.

PAGE: Why the process of development was reversed?

KARIM: The best economic development period was Field Marshal Ayub Khan's era during which dozens of economically viable industrial units were established. During that period highest industrial growth and economic prosperity was attained only due to, though, liberal but prudent policies. However, during the regime of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto the whole process of economic activities became negative. This was mainly due to ruthless and indiscriminate nationalization and rackless attitude to resolve the problems of blue collar workers. He pampered the labour unions which disrupted production activities. These impulsive and politically motivated pollicies ruined the entire economic infrastructure of the country. The other reason is that in the subsequent period there was hardly any research and development activities and industries failed to acquire new technology too. Import substitution was not encouraged. The drastic devaluation of currency coupled with aformentioned steps damaged the economy to a level that it has not been able to recover even after dismisal of Bhutto government in 1977.

PAGE: In your opinion what are the key issues faced by the country?

KARIM: The subsequent governments also resorted to adhoc measures such as frequent devaluation of currency, IPP controversy and following politicaly motivated development programmes. Freezing of foreign currency accounts also contributed towards desiruction of economy.

PAGE: What measures do you suggest for the revival of the economy?

KARIM: Most important point is that pros and cons of any economic policy should be deliberated thoroughly anticipating at least 30 years requirements. The policy should be prepared for short-term as well as for long-term. However, all the efforts should be made to ensure documentation of economy. Research and development should be given priority for industries. Export oriented industries using indigenous raw materials should be encouraged particularly to enable them to sell their products in the international market with the highest value addition. At the same time, the industries producing basic raw material should be encouraged. Export of non-traditional products should be lookedafter and hurdles should be removed. One such industry is soap and detergent manufacturing. Though, the current export of soap and detergent is not substantial, it has enormous potential — provided the level of duties and taxes is reduced. The import of finished soap should be curbed by imposing higher duties so that breathing space is made available for the revival of local soap industry. Other export incentives such as custom duty refund or duty free release of raw materials including exemption from provincial or municipal taxes, lower electricity tariff.

PAGE: What are your suggestions for the revival of soap industry?

KARIM: At present soap industry faces serious crisis, and many units have been compelled to stop production. The custom duty on basic raw material of soap comes to approximately 62 per cent. Whereas, the custom duty on finished soap is only 25 per cent. This anomaly has been maintained by the bureaucracy at the behest of some multinational companies. Higher duties have crippled the local maufacturers whereas foreign companies have been the largest beneficiery. This has been going on though the country continue to suffer from adverse balance of payments and limited forex at its disposal.