ECONOMY OF KARACHI NOT BE LOCALIZED
INTERVIEW CAPT. HALEEM SIDDIQUI
July 11 - 17, 2011
Capt. Haleem A. Siddiqui, Chairman Marine Group of Companies while speaking about the economic potential of Karachi said in an interview that Pakistan boasts of the city like Karachi, which is the source of bread and butter for the entire nation because of its ports handling 90 per cent of the national foreign trade. However, we are not getting the best benefits out of this port city.
Actually there only two natural ports in the Arabian Sea: one is Karachi and another is Trincomalee in Sri Lanka which are the best natural harbours. These are not manmade ports like others. The nature is kind to bless Pakistan with infinite resources yet we are not making best use of these resources. If we are grateful to the blessings of God for his blessing by not utilizing these resources for the good of the people and the country then we cannot be escape from the punishment. The extremely poor economic conditions and law and order situation presently we are confronted with in Karachi and rest of the country in fact are punishments for ignoring the divine blessings.
Capt. Haleem Siddiqui is committed to the economy of Pakistan. He is basically an optimist who strongly believes that Pakistan is destined to emerge as an economic power on the map of global economy since people have a deep sense of love and commitment to their motherland. Time is not far away when the simple but committed people of this country would harness the enormous economic resources bestowed by Almighty Allah for the good of this country. The only thing, which is needed, is to have faith and confidence in the potential of our own people. They are the best assets especially the younger generation, which needs encouragement, respect, and trust to prove them for nation building. There is no harm in putting trust on our own people. Once you do that, you will see that desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose, he said. He paid glowing tributes to simple and hard working people of this country.
Commenting on the current law and order situations, Capt. Haleem Siddiqui said that in fact Karachi is the economic lifeline of the country. If peace, prosperity and progress would prevail in Karachi the trickledown effects and benefits would naturally pass on to the people in every city, district, and rural area. If investment will come to Karachi, it would certainly reflect in the living standards of the people elsewhere in the country. Similarly, the disturbed situation in Karachi would upset growth of the entire country economically, socially and politically. Hence, it is in the national interest to ensure peace and infrastructure development responding to the need of progress for the people and the country.
Actually, the people are the only avenues for the preservation of our liberty, growth, and development. "We should not localize the economy of Karachi as it contributes to whole of Pakistan." Karachi is like an ocean, you hurl a stone, and the circle which emerges on surface would go from Karachi to even beyond Peshawar. While this does not happen, if you do that in Peshawar, which is enough to measure the significance of this port city. One strike in Karachi affects the industries upcountry for two days. Therefore, the economic rise and fall of the country is strongly linked with the economic and political stability in the national nervous system.
Karachi is the commercial hub and even in the worst economic scenario of today it contributes over 68 percent of the total revenue to the federal government while over 95 percent revenue to the Sindh government. All these facts speak loudly about the economic potential of the city. It is unfortunate that we are the worst enemy of ourselves by ignoring the real economic strength of this city.
The population in Karachi has been multiplied from around five lakh at the time of independence in 1947 when plenty of every thing was available in surplus to such an extent that even roads, and modes of transports including buses and trams used to come out on roads after proper washing and cleaning. That has become the glory of the past now with explosion of population which reached to around 20 million as of today. The population growth rate in Karachi is abnormally high compared with rest of the country which is estimated near about two percent while population growth rate in this city is over six percent per annum primarily due to four per cent influx of population every year from all corners of the country.
Recalling the early days of Karachi, Mr. Siddiqui said Karachi harbors played a great role in the industrial and economic developments which provided the source of bread and butter to many people even to upcountry who started to settle down in this city primarily for job opportunities. The first bank (Habib Bank) was opened here as the national bank of the country for many years. The city has many first besides this: the first textile mills (Valika Textile Mills) and the first newspaper of the country. The city started to expand horizontally in all directions at a massive scale making this mega city even bigger than 67 countries of the world.
All these happenings were primarily because of Karachi port, which may be called as an engine of growth and economic and financial hub of the country in real terms. At the time of inception of the country, the volume of cargo handling at port was merely 2.5 lakh tons which gradually multiplied to millions of tons today.
All these economic happenings were because of the massive investments by the private sector. He however clarified that all this growth was not because the then governments wanted to do this but it was because of the situation and opportunities stemming from port activities and tremendous investments by the private sector.
There was a migration of people from India at the time of partition. The then government advertised in Indian media for the need of skilled and educated Muslim workers in Pakistan. The migrated skilled and educated workers became the assets for the nation, as there was no education in this part of subcontinent. The skilled migrated people with strong education lent a strong support for the beginning of the economic, commercial, and industrial happenings in this country. Even today the first preference of the investors is Karachi and around Karachi. Had the capital been not shifted from Karachi to Islamabad, the industrial network would have stretched from Karachi to Kashmore, Siddiqui believed.
ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL BLUNDER
He attributed the persistent disturbed law and order situation and ethnic riots to the sense of economic deprivation prevailing among a huge population. Had the process of industrialization and economic growth of 60s continued, there would be plenty of industrialization and economic activities in this part of the country, which could provide and satisfy the economic appetite of the people of whole nation. Economic instability leads to political disorder. Hence, if you desire to strengthen political stability you have to prioritize economic developments in your policy responses and political decisions, Capt. Haleem remarked. As a matter of fact, the shifting of the capital from Karachi and the policy of nationalization in 70s were two major blunders in the economic and political history of Pakistan as the nation had to pay a high price of these decisions, he maintained.
Speaking about economic potential of the fast emerging Port Qasim, which is also located in Karachi, Capt. Haleem expressed hope and desire that the people at the helm of affairs would develop industrial areas in the periphery of Port Qasim having reasonable depth and channels. Currently, the focus is on infrastructure development which needs planning according to the future requirements, he reiterated.
Actually the Port Qasim came into being in 1998, yet the development of infrastructure is at zero level like what is today at Gwadar Port. The investors had to use the roads of Pakistan Steel and the customs house for reaching Port Qasim. The absence of infrastructure impairs the economic growth and progress drastically. He emphasized on developments of crucially needed infrastructure with a vision to meet and serve the needs of the industry satisfactorily in the days to come. Now the customs collectorate has been established at Port Qasim but for many years the port was functioning without customs and the trade was shaky to use import or export from Port Qasim and traders rushed to Karachi Port for customs clearance.
Port Qasim is surrounded by precious and huge land stretch which needs to be developed for industries keeping in view the future growth and development of the port. The development of Port Qasim should take lessons from the unplanned developments in Karachi, which is locked from all sides due to development in a haphazard manner. This recurrence should not be allowed in the development plans of Port Qasim, Capt. Haleem recommended strongly.
DEVELOPMENT OF COASTAL BELT
Regarding future development in and around Karachi, he was of the view that with proper thinking and planning we can develop the coastal belt from Karachi to Gwadar as a tourism paradise and develop so many resorts which can supplement the economic developments in a big way. He said that the absence of hinterland infrastructure development is hampering growth of Gwadar Port.
Actually unplanned projects and investment go into waste as we cannot take benefits of such projects. For example, the superhighway which connects port to the upcountry does not help economic developments. Instead of developing motorways for luxury drives, there was a need to develop a motorway right from Karachi to Peshawar connecting all industrial cities of the cities to facilitate swift and timely transportation of the industrial goods to and from the port.
Today Karachi Port handles 60 million tons of cargo. Its timely delivery to and from the port can produce more positive results and encourage tremendous investments as well as produce economic results beyond imaginations for the people from Karachi to Peshawar. Such kind of investments on a motorway for commercial traffic would have generated huge revenue for the government as well.
The motorway developed from Lahore to Islamabad is beautiful, yet it is missing the commercial traffic, which should be the main objective of such motorways, he remarked.
Mr. Siddiqui was not happy with the pattern of privatization of Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC), which is the largest utility in the world. When asked to explain how KESC is the biggest utility in the world, he said you know Karachi is bigger than 67 member countries of the United Nations. It is strange that only one utility has been tasked to electrify the city with such a huge population. Go anywhere in the world and you would notice that the power generation, transmission and distribution systems are three different jobs handled by three companies separately. In our case, KESC has been given dominance over all the system, which is beyond the capacity of the utility. For the effective control and discharging of the three responsibilities properly, there is a need to assign them to different entities in order to overcome the power crisis. The model should be followed nationwide, he advised.