NEED OF DEVELOPING ALTERNATIVE ENERGY RESOURCES
INTERVIEW: ASAD UMAR, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT PAKISTAN TEHREEK-E-INSAAF
SHIFTING ON COAL CAN SAVE THE COUNTRY AT LEAST RS400 BILLION WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT.
June 11 - 17, 2012
The decision of Asad Umar to join national politics as the senior vice president of Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) after quitting as the President and Chief Executive of Engro Corporation, one of the most prestigious private sector organizations in Pakistan, naturally took every body by surprise.
His new journey to the uneven path of politics begins at a time when he reached at the peak of his professional career. Yet, the passion to serve the cause of the country and redress the sufferings of the common person was probably stronger than the well-disciplined life as the chief of a huge organization.
It is only liquid currents of thought that move men and the world and Asad feels that the spirit of the leadership of his party will certainly address the most burning issues of the moment such as energy crisis having paralyzing effects on our economic growth and that needs quick decisions. It requires no rocket science to resolve energy issues. It is quite a simple to focus alternative energy resources to bring cost of energy at an affordable level of the common person.
He says, for example, the power generation through costly fuel oil costs at least 26 cents a unit while if we shift from oil to coal (even imported one) the cost will be less than 11 cent a unit. Shifting on coal can save the country at least Rs400 billion with immediate effect.
Why our policy makers are shy to switch over from fuel oil to coal when the most developed economies including Germany, the United States, and even India generate up to 60 per cent electricity from power, he rightly questions. In our case, we are crushing the poor under the unbearable price of fuel oil. It is the time for quick decisions without further loss of time to switch over to coal for power generation and other cheap alternative energy resources.
The Engro Corporation has already signed a power project located at Thar coalfield while funding is also available from China, he informs. Delays in the projects always result in escalation of the project cost. There are some signs of activity towards construction of infrastructure facility at Thar coal yet wasting time for nothing is beyond comprehension.
Basically, the country needs radical changes in certain areas such as education, which is the key to knowledge based and sustainable economic, social and political growth, he says, adding you can count on various examples of many countries even within our region, which focused on education as the first priority and today they are among the top economies among the nations of the world. Look at Sri Lanka where literacy rate has gone up 100 percent, India over 60 percent, and same is the case with Singapore, Korea, Thailand and many other countries whereas the situation in our country is highly disgusting. Dropout ratio of school going children is the highest in the region while out of 1000 only 85 children go to school that has rendered over 50 percent of our population illiterate and ignorant, while infant mortality rate is also horrible due to want of judicious and fair distribution of national resources.
Pakistan has enormous natural resources as well as highly dedicated and talented human resource is also available, he believes saying but no country can grow on the basis of natural resources alone. The nucleus of growth happens to be the citizens and the people of any country, he remarks. The citizens should have the feelings that they have a say in policymaking and trust on a system based on merit. The goal of involving the people in decision making can be achieved through power devolution and not by unilateral decisions imposed by those having no heart for the poor.
Pointing out what he calls the economic injustices, Umar says, one of the most glaring examples of economic injustice is the levy of indirect taxation system, which treats the billionaire and a factory worker as equals.
Under the indirect taxation system, the have and have-nots pay the same amount of taxes irrespective of the level of the income of the rich and the poor, he adds. Untaxed income generation from agriculture sector is yet another example of economic injustices.
Why the income generated from agriculture has been exempted and why the sector is treated as the privileged one and the daily wagers are heavily taxed on every thing they buy or consume, is the question that troubles the executive-turn-politician. As a nation, there should be no disparity and every income generated should be taxed, he firmly believes.
History tells us that in Pakistan political forces that have support from the U.S. and the establishment come into power. Do you think your party can make a difference within the given circumstances without any outside support? The situation prevailing in the country is quite different today, remarks the optimistic Umar. There exists a strong will and desire among the masses across the country for a radical change in the system and no body can deny that fact that when the masses at the grass root level decide for a change no power can stop them, and today the situation is quite ripe for a radical change, he advocates.
Replying to a question about corruption in the system, which does not allow people to cast their votes according to their will and desire, he says this is talked about frequently in social circles. Now, it will be in the interest of all contesting parties to evolve a system with a consensus to ensure fair and free polling arrangements and hopefully most of the parties would agree to develop a system to check rigging in the elections, he adds. Actually, the economic, social and political situation has gone so bad that every body is now crying for a change and hopefully the people would exercise their right in right direction, concludes senior vice president PTI.
PROFILE OF ASAM UMAR
Asad Umar started his career with HSBC, Pakistan and in 1985. He joined Exxon Pakistan subsequently renamed Engro. He was President & Chief Executive of Engro Corporation Limited from January 2004 till his early retirement in May 2012. Mr. Umar has previously been the Chairman of Pakistan Business Council, Pakistan Chemical & Energy Sector Skill Development Company and Punjab Skill Development Fund. In addition, he has also held directorships of State Bank of Pakistan, Karachi Education Initiative, Dawood Hercules Corporation Limited, Oil & Gas Development Company Ltd. (OGDCL), Karachi Stock Exchange, Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy (PCP), Pakistan State Oil (PSO), Port Qasim Authority (PQA), Pakistan Institute of Corporate Governance and Member of the Board of Trustees of Lahore University Management Sciences. He is also a Past Chapter Chair of Young Presidents' Organization (YPO), Pakistan Chapter. He graduated as an MBA from IBA, Karachi in 1984 and was awarded the Sitra-i-Imtiaz by the government of Pakistan in 2010.