Comment: Zafar Masud
SouthAsia speaks to Zafar Masud, Chairman and CEO, Burj Capital Pakistan and a Director at the State Bank of Pakistan.
While the World Bank may have moved positively towards reducing global poverty, less progress has been made in managing environmental sustainability. What are your views with respect to South Asia?
There's clearly a lack of awareness about the environmental sustainability and its repercussions on future food security, health issues and, ultimately poverty reduction, across South Asia. The World Bank can play a key role in creating necessary awareness amongst the masses and the governments through specific "awareness programs" on this subject, and taking seriously the implementation of the environment improvement benchmarks linked to its program lending. Food prices are rising across South Asia. To what extent to do you think weather and climate changes are responsible for this?
Escalation in food prices is a phenomenon across the globe and is not merely related to South Asia. These increases seem to be attributable to the adverse weather and climatic conditions to an extent and South Asia is no different. While the impact on food prices may not be attributable substantially to the climatic conditions hitherto, but if the required measures related to environmental sustainability are not taken seriously, then surely that would lead to prices shooting up at alarming levels. The World Bank has said it is ready to help Pakistan in its energy crisis. How best can the country take advantage of this?
This is a great offer which the government must capitalize on, particularly in the areas of technical assistance and financing of ower projects. The World Bank's global expertise can help the government in learning and implementing the most
optimal energy policies and plans and addressing the chronic issue of circular debt which is not something unique in our context. Many emerging markets experienced it at one point or another and have been able to address it successfully. The World Bank will be in the best position to assist the government in these areas and enable Pakistan to have an effective and efficient energy system. The World Bank says Asian countries can use fiscal stimuli to protect their economies despite a global slowdown. What are your comments with reference to South Asia?
It is not just a matter of fiscal discipline. South Asian countries need to undertake the much needed "structural reforms". Any fiscal or monetary action could merely help in the short run. Until the necessary reforms are not undertaken, any measure on the fiscal or monetary side will be ad hoc in nature and this could sail the economy through the crises temporarily. It is about time that the most viable indigenous structural reforms were devised and implemented religiously in South Asia. There is no escape. The new Vice President of the World Bank Group’s South Asia Region, Mr. Philippe H. Le Houérou, has said he agrees with the Nawaz Sharif government’s economic plan and has extended the Bank’s support in implementation of economic reforms. Do you think this augurs well for Pakistan?
Very well indeed. However, it's up to the government to take the maximum advantage of this offer and get the required support from the World Bank in the areas of policymaking, technical assistance and financing. To my mind, the offer of the World Bank should be most relevant in making viable policies and obtaining technical assistance; the funding bit must come last. The change in the sequence of priorities may not bear the required fruit. Zafar Masud is Chairman and CEO, Burj Capital Pakistan. Prior to this, he was a member of Barclays Emerging Markets Management Committee and the Regional Managing Director for Southern Africa at Barclays Bank plc. Zafar was the founding member of the Dubai Islamic Bank team in Pakistan. He also serves on the Central Board of Directors of the State Bank of Pakistan as an Independent Director and as a Member of the SBP Board HR and Investment Committees.