INTERVIEW WITH FAISAL SHAJI, ECONOMIC ANALYST

KHALIL AHMED
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Aug 1 - 7, 2011

PAGE: TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF.

FAISAL SHAJI: Being an analyst, I have always gone for creativity and in the investment world I was able to create a comprehensive research portal www.scstrade.com that helps individual as well as institutional investors alike.

The vision was to give opinions, corporate comparison tables, and valuation sheets. That was one novel way of providing independent research. I was riding on a good reputation but online portal of www.scstrade.com was one true effort to increase investor awareness. Being Head of Online Equity Sales & Research, I did more for investors as against big brokers who are still relying on over-the-counter services that eventually result in investor losses. I believe in swift online system, which provides easy research.

PAGE: WHAT ARE YOUR COMMENTS ON STEPS TAKEN FOR POVERTY ALLEVIATION IN PAKISTAN?

FAISAL SHAJI: I do not see any sustainable approach whereby poverty could be reduced. It needs institutional framework whereby people from rural areas could get jobs. Poverty emerges from lack of opportunities in villages and towns. People migrate to cities but do not find appropriate jobs. The actual potential of public strata is never being realized. No government in Pakistan has ever worked on Dr. Mahboob-ul-Haq's human resource indices, which could herald some thing for poor. Our labor productivity index is appalling. Pakistan's biggest resource is agriculture, which is single largest source of employment and hence demands a proactive institutional framework.

Pakistan needs to adopt Ludhiana University model to raise agriculture productivity levels. Only way to alleviate poverty is to increase farm incomes especially of poor peasants and haris. Today the whole edifice of Chinese Communist Party approach is to fight against any famine like situation so that there should not be any public revolt against them, which actually happened in North African states. The political government in Pakistan should also be mindful of this fact. Mere BISP and sasti roti is no answer to a bigger problem.

PAGE: WHAT MUST BE DONE TO PROMOTE INDUSTRIALIZATION IN PAKISTAN?

FAISAL SHAJI: There is a thing called 'political will'. One needs to laud President Zardari here who tried to bring Chinese into some of the infrastructural projects. Moreover, benefits from Iran Gas pipeline are vital for industrial development. Pakistan needs to evoke regional approach. It should seek partnership from Chinese, Japanese, Turkish and Malaysian entrepreneurs in various sectors such as alternate energy, semi-conductors and robotics. Pakistan also needs technology transfers the way we saw in South Korea, India, Indonesia, and Thailand. Secondly, development of SME is key to Pakistan's sustainable GDP. Pakistan needs to diversify from textile to a hi-tech economy and follow Seattle model.

Here Pakistan-US relationship is important. US is solution to Pakistan's development in getting technology transfers. A political will can invoke a big change that happened in China. Contrary to our beliefs, it is actually US which is behind Japanese, Koreans, Chinese and Indian success. Pakistan needs similar support. A time may come where even Afghans can go ahead of us if we continue to ignore a consistent framework.

PAGE: YOUR VIEWS ON EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES IN PAKISTAN FOR QUALIFIED PAKISTANIS.

FAISAL SHAJI: It is a bad situation because Pakistani professional institutes are now producing professionals who after attaining degrees immediately seek immigration to Malaysia, New Zealand, Canada, and US. Most of the NED and Dow graduates find their way to industrialized world, which is a Pakistan's loss. Unfortunately, our leadership, who are resourceful villagers, are not aware or deliberately do not want to develop because of feudal mentality. I see many fund managers and broker side analysts loosing jobs owing to nearly 'non-functioning' capital markets because of government 'attitude'. I see banks shedding jobs 'at will' citing lack of business. This situation is appalling. People do not want to invest excess money in any business and existing businesses and factories are closing down. Pakistani institutions are decaying fast and hence jobs are scarce.

PAGE: WHAT ARE YOUR COMMENTS ON INVESTMENT AND INFLATION?

FAISAL SHAJI: Pakistan has reverted to 'commissioner system' which may help in controlling inflation at the district level; even though I am in favor of local bodies. Here provincial government in Punjab is to blame since it deliberately did not control prices of the grain and did not invoke mechanism to control smuggling of agriculture produce. For instance, sugar hoarding crisis was allowed to linger in Punjab in which many political bigwigs were involved. I think controlling inflation in Pakistan is purely an administrative issue. It could be a function of ministry of finance if it allows bringing 'surplus productivity' through industrial framework.

PAGE: YOUR VIEWS ABOUT IMPACT OF LAW AND ORDER SITUATION ON POVERTY LEVEL.

FAISAL SHAJI: Again political will is important to sort out law and order. Agriculture reforms are important to sort out poverty issues in rural areas that is increasingly becoming hotbed for extremism. Until and unless we do not improve situation in Pakistani villages, economic situation would continue to deteriorate. Pakistan's biggest enemy is not Taliban but Pakistan's own feudal lords.