PRIVATE SECTOR'S SAY IN BUDGET MAKING VITAL
PAKISTAN SHOULD NOT GO FOR IMF LOAN TO CUT BUDGET DEFICIT.
INTERVIEW: S.M. MUNEER-PRESIDENT IPCCI
Apr 2 - 8, 2012
Meaningful participation of the private sector, the real force behind sustainable growth, has to be ensured to take out the national economy from shambles.
This was stated by the prominent business leader S.M. Muneer, who is currently working hard to normalize trade between India and Pakistan as the serving President of India-Pakistan Chamber of Commerce & Industry (IPCCI).
S.M. Muneer, who also the Chairman DIN Group, one of the leading group of companies in Pakistan, and the Vice Chairman Muslim Commercial Bank, firmly believes that economic and political stabilities are linked together and without a strong economic base it would not be possible to bring stability on sociopolitical fronts. For achieving that cherished goal, the government would have to ensure an effective say of the private sector in making of budgetary policies.
Today, the economy is confronted with the worst kind of energy crisis. Consequently, the trade and industry has been rendered either out of business or running under capacity.
The energy crisis in fact has given a serious dent to the economic growth on one hand, while generally speaking the endless energy crisis is haunting the entire nation like a nightmare on the other. As a result of energy crisis, over 10 million people have been rendered jobless in Faisalabad, Lahore and other industrial cities of the country which is a serious concern for the entire business community.
Even a thought is extremely painful that despite having one of the largest coal reserves in the world, the country is without uninterrupted supply of electricity. When this precious asset would be put for the good use of the economy and the people in our country? Most of the developed economies have shifted to coal based power generation.
Apart from gas and electricity issues, water, which is the source of life, is being wasted criminally on mismanagement. The precious water is being allowed to drain out into the sea primarily due to shortage of much needed dams, which are taken as the backbone of the economy everywhere in the world.
Mr. Muneer sounded a note of warning that if this trend of water wastage is allowed to persist we would be heading for acute water crisis in the years to come. The scarcity of water might be leading to wars in future.
Narrating his recent experience in China, he said he saw a dam after a short span of 100-150 km which are developed to support agriculture, power generation at an affordable price in highly developed economic environment of China where every drop of water is stored in dam, as they cannot afford to waste this precious natural gift. Why we are so ignorant about the danger of water scarcity looming around on the back of high rate of population growth?
LAW & ORDER
Another serious issue confronted to the economy is ever deteriorating law and order situation, which is not permitting the trade and industry to move forward smoothly. Every day there is a new issue creating law and order problems in Karachi, which is called financial and industrial hub of the country. He regretfully recalled that even in the holy month of Ramazan, people have to bear what he described the hair-raising incidents of lawlessness including cold-blooded target killings, loot, and arson giving sleepless nights to the citizens. Dead bodies were found from different parts of the city. In such an environment who can even think about normal functioning of trade and industry. This inhuman act of killing people has not come to an end as intermittently it continues to happen. He however paid glowing tributes to federal home minister Rehman Malik as well as provincial home minister Manzoor Wasan who devoted their time and efforts to combat the law and order issue and stayed for over one and half month in Karachi to amicably cope with the issue of target killings in Karachi. However, it was not the end of the story, as the citizens of Karachi are enduring what he called the inhuman activity of "Bhatta Mafia" for quite sometime.
He cited recent experiences of his two businessman friends who received "Parchi" along with bullets with a barbarian remark that this bullet can go through the head as well if their demand was not met by the recipients. What would happen to the economy in general, and trade and industry in particular under these circumstances if the criminal elements behind the heinous crimes are not handled with an iron hand and cut to size to restore the confidence of the citizens and the image of the civil society?
In fact, it is the peace and good governance, which paves the way for economic stability and growth in any society. The situation calls for extra ordinary measures to combat with these unruly Mafia playing with the integrity and image of the country, he said in a firm tone.
"I salute to the patience of trade and industry which is producing results despite all odds and difficulties to fulfill its commitment to the nation by meeting the revenue targets and enhancing exports to a record level of $25 billion last year.
The best performance of the export regime was duly celebrated at the government and private sector last year. However, the situation seems quite difficult this year because of declining international prices of textile and leather products. Apart from price decline, the shortage of gas and electricity may also have the negative effects on export sector. Hence, the exporters would not be able to repeat export performance of the last year and may hardly reach $23-24 billion this year.
He said that the leather industry, which had become the second largest export earning member of the country, currently has been thrown into shambles and the victim of the bad governance and corruption. He said that a large quantity of animals are being smuggled to Afghanistan and Iran causing serious shortage of hide and skin in the country. When an industry would not be provided with the supply of raw materials, how can it deliver and produce results? He urged the government to plug all means of smuggling with the Afghan border to stop illegal trade, which is not only hampering growth of leather industry but also adding to food inflation in Pakistan as the price of meat has jumped from Rs450 to over Rs600 per kg in a short span of time.
On the question of disturbance in Balochistan, Muneer expressed his confidence that Balochistan is an integral part of Pakistan and the people of Balochistan are also more Pakistanis than any one else. There is an immediate need for redressal of their grievances for which the government is also doing its utmost.
He appreciated the concerted efforts of President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani who are concerned with the problems of Baloch people, and expressed hope with the economic reforms for the welfare of Balochistan things will improve soon. Sardars of Balochistan should also be taken into confidence to deal with Balochistan issue, he suggested. As far as the private sector is concerned, it will always be willing to include Balochistan's youngsters into mainstream of the economy.
Being a leading business leader SM Muneer was of the opinion that Pakistan should not run after loans from IMF for bridging its budget deficit. He said that it was the bitter experience elsewhere in the world that whenever a country entered into an agreement with IMF it had to pay price. Instead of looking towards IMF, more focus should be given to mobilize domestic resources.