Harassment of industrialists affects economic growth
AQAM-UD-DIN KHAN BUSINESS in Pakistan suffers from a number of problems. It is a good move, however, on the part of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the government that due notice is being taken of the corrupt practices that have been followed by to amass wealth through nefarious means. A recent example is that of the Rs730 million that was recovered from the residence of Balochistan Finance Secretary Mushtaq Ahmed Raisani, who was also arrested. Corruption is negatively affecting the economic situation, the country is suffering and foreign investors are turning away. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Chief Minister of Punjab, Shabaz Sharif are taking measures to improve the country’s economic climate.
Economic growth is inherently linked to a nation’s production output. In Pakistan because high production levels are not achieved due to the paucity of energy for factories and production units. Factories suffer because of the load-shedding schedules and production is not achieved at full capacity. This in turn affects national exports which go into a decline because production and delivery timelines are not met. As a result, Pakistan’s exports instead of registering a continuous growth pattern have fallen behind and the country is not achieving its targets.
Exports are the lifeline of national growth and a barometer of economic health, Therefore, declining exports are very bad news. It was after much endeavour that Pakistan won the G-Plus status for exports to EU countries but that seems to be going down the drain. Plummeting economic growth also leads to unemployment and creates a further deep dent in the overall economic and social indicators.
Another factor which is fast emerging and is creating problems for industry and business in Pakistan is harassment. There was a time when the business community was unnecessarily pestered by the tax wolves with the result that a good part of the revenue did not enter the national exchequer; instead, it was funneled into the pockets of tax men and their agents. Then came a time when businessmen were harassed by terrorists and extortionists of all shades and hues. Things reached a point when they either paid up the extortion money or were kidnapped for ransom. The trend gave way to ‘parchies’ furtively landing at shops, small trader establishments and factories, asking for ‘bhatta’ or extortion money. The trend was picking up speed, especially in a revenue-generating city like Karachi, when the Rangers stepped in and put an end to the trend.
However, businessmen still continue to suffer from another sorry development. It pertains to the inclination among certain unscrupulous elements in law enforcers. These extortionists need to know how their activities are hurting the country’s development. In one such incident, a serving police official threatened an industrialist of dire consequences if he did not pay up a certain amount to another industrialist. The rationale of the police officer’s meddling in the dispute was that he described himself as a ‘partner’ in the business. How a government official could be a partner in business was a big question mark.
We are facing a big challenge by competing with regional economies like China and India and emerging economies like Vietnam. They have programs for the promotion of their. We can learn from India. India supports industrial. The point is that today our textile industry and various other industries like the rice industry are facing regional economic competition which we are unable to respond to. The industrialist wants a very focused, supportive and peaceful environment so that he can be innovative and come up with solutions.
This kind of pressure is further compounded by the harassment issue and it tips the scales. It is not at all something that the business community can deal with. The country cannot afford to harass its businessmen and expect the economy to thrive. The government alone cannot be expected to find a solution to this problem. The only thing is that if, on top of their financial challenges, the businessmen start feeling personally threatened, they will hardly be able to pursue their work on an innovative basis and look for business opportunities elsewhere.
Pakistan is also faced with debt payments which favour a strong currency while international export competition favours a weaker currency. If we weaken our currency, we face problems in making payments which is the major dilemma of our finance ministry. If we do not address the currency issue, we lose share in international markets. This may not affect the balance sheet of the government because they are getting remittances and everything is being covered but, in the longterm, we will cripple our economy with dire repercussions. If the issue of harassment of businessmen is solved, the business community can at least work in a peaceful environment and face the regional economies. The government is taking many measures to improve the economy and the NAB initiatives are also commendable. As such, there is still hope if we keep moving in the right direction. It needs to be understood by the powers that our businessmen are in very disadvantaged and frustrating position, which is ratter alarming. The government needs to take notice of this fact if it wants the economy to grow.