INTERVIEW WITH MIAN MAHMOOD, CHAIRMAN PAKISTAN GUARANTEE EXPORT CORPORATION LTD. (PGECL)

KHALIL AHMED
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Dec 19 - 25, 20
11

PAGE: TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF AND PGECL.

MIAN MAHMOOD: After graduating from the London School of Economics with a major in management sciences in 1978, I was compelled to develop a sense of understanding and knowledge about Pakistan's financial and economical backbone, the agro industry. My relation with the agro industry led me into the establishment of numerous successful businesses: Sortex Rice Mills, AgroVision, M Textiles etc. Now, fully aware of the potential engrained in Pakistan's agro industry, I had to envision the larger picture and thereafter started working for the development of the same industry. Following which came along memberships of various working committees and councils established for the development of the agro field (advisory council, ministry of commerce/agri business cell ministry of agri and food etc.). Finally, when the opportunity floated itself, I took the call and went with the ministry of commerce on the establishment of PGECL.

The ministry of commerce established Pakistan Guarantee Export Corporation Ltd (PGECL) in 1999 with the objectives of facilitating Pakistani exports and for bridging the chronic technological disparity between Pakistan and rest of the world. PGECL initiated its work with a three-tier policy: outreach, engagement and generation. In the pursuit of the first goal, PGECL organized and participated in more than 400 international exhibitions/trade fairs/conference and seminars within five years of its establishment thus, enhancing Pakistan's projection on the global stage and introducing Pakistani goods and services to the international arena.

Orders kept flowing in and the remarkable export achievements during the early 2000s are a record of the exemplary performance of PGECL and similar institutes. PGECL played a vital role in facilitating buyers and sellers. A team of 200 dedicated professionals is available 24/7 to guide small, medium, and large industries through every single international order.

PAGE: WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ABOUT LOCAL AND FOREIGN INVESTORS IN PAKISTAN?

MIAN MAHMOOD: In developing countries like Pakistan, foreign investors are most important/key part of the puzzle. The economy being massively indebted to foreign (international) loaners desperately needs the shot in the arm by foreign investors in order to cancel out the devastating effects posed by the loans.

Although the foreign investments at this point in time are a mandatory part of the solution to the current crisis, there is no long lasting effect of this exercise. Pakistan government needs to build its own viable businesses with the cooperation and guidelines of the private sector. There is no other long term solution to Pakistan's economic problems, it is about time the stakeholder realize that self reliance with minimal foreign input is the only way forward. Local investors are doing good but not good enough. It's time they come above personal gains and start investing in projects which will not only serve their pockets but will also have a plough-back effect on the economy.

A very viable frozen foods (vegetables) project lays 90 per cent complete in central Punjab and has huge offering for the investors as well as the economy due to its export based products, but unfortunately no local investor seems willing enough to fill in the remaining 10 per cent.

PAGE: HOW COULD PAKISTAN ATTRACT HUGE INVESTMENTS FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH?

MIAN MAHMOOD: If the Pakistani Prime Minster can summon an envoy's conference on the NATO attack, why can't he call in all of Pakistan's commercial counselors and request a briefing on their performance? It is our clear advice to the government that it should stop looking west. The current perceptions and projections of Pakistan in the west are totally overrated. I don't think we can rely on western investments any longer or at least until the Afghan endgame is over.

PAGE: WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ABOUT CHINESE INVESTMENTS IN PAKISTAN?

MIAN MAHMOOD: China has been an all weather friend and its policies and actions are no different when it comes to bailing out the Pakistani economy. However, our lack of interest in China's propositions has helped us in ending up where we are today. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization seems to be the only way forward for Pakistan and China will be vital in maximizing Pakistan's role in the organization. SCO aims to offer unmatched market access to Pakistan but the chronic ignorance by Islamabad is unprecedented.

PAGE: WHICH SECTORS SHOULD GIVE BETTER RETURNS TO LOCAL AND FOREIGN INVESTORS?

MIAN MAHMOOD: The tertiary sector has been the emphasis of most of the recent foreign investments in Pakistan. The sector already seems to be working at its full potential. The only possible way to increase returns would be to maximize productivity and plug in the loose holes. But, the sector that has been neglected in all these years is the manufacturing industry. The secondary industry is the only pathway to increase jobs for unskilled laborers who are the heavier part of our workforce as far as numbers are concerned. Future investments in the secondary sector will be very helpful for Pakistan's economy.