NationalVOLUME 15 ISSUE # 01

Rich banks and poor people

Pakistanis needs to come forward to support their country for now they can be sure their leadership will not fail them. The people are indeed toiling hard to make ends meet. But some aspects are not contributing their due share.

 

The businessman is not investing in industry – which is the future of the country. Factories in Faisalabad and Karachi, the industrial hearts of Pakistan, have shut down or are in the process of shutting down. In the last 30 years there has been a shift away from industry and the new engine of financial growth is political opportunism leading to the closing of industry, bringing with it the multiple effects, such as unemployment, dropping GDP and falling exports.

 

The disastrous Rs. 40 jump in the price of the dollar was only one immediate cause of a devastating effect on the imports. The essential commodities, petroleum products and edible oil jumped immediately as well. This resulted in a correspondence increase in all commodities that travelled by road, rail or air. Of course, there was a corresponding increase in the price of exports, making them even more uncompetitive. Pakistan’s export does not have the depth to diversify and quickly change. This must be a long term goal for the economic planners in Islamabad.

Ours is a very wealthy land, a huge agricultural potential. A major disaster in recent times was the switch to sugarcane growing, from some cotton growing areas. This was an encouragement to the sugar mafia controlled mainly by PML-N stalwarts reaping huge profits, with zero export potential conveniently covered with huge cash subsidies to boost the export price. An obvious ploy to fiddle the books. These subsidies came from other vital cash, strapped resources which did not address the issues of export generation. These scarce cash resources could have been used in other more productive area. Similarly, scarce water resources were fritted away on a hugely thirsty crop. Sugarcane is notorious for its large consumption of water. But politics being what it is, the successful sugarcane farmer is also a hugely successful politician.

 

The Bermuda Triangle of Pakistan which swallows up huge amounts of cash, billions every year, is the so-called “circular debt.” This has to be restructured and any person indulging in the scam should be dealt with severely. Perhaps this government should take over the power producers and recover the illegal dues that have been over-collected by these power producers. No heed should be paid to any fancy legal contract by that master of scam, Salman Farooqi, acting in concert with Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif.

 

The “Yellow Cabs” were also a brilliant project of Salman Farooqi in which billions of rupees vanished without a trace, unfortunately for us the “circular debt” shows no sign of going away. It will need massive surgery which is long over-due.

 

It is truly unfortunate that in this land we seem to produce many “Double Shahs” and Salman Farooqis ever ready to do the bidding of the Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif without a thought of the economic losses that would accrue. These people, like Salman Farooqi, are equally to be blamed as are the Zardaris and the Sharifs.

 

Being a highly trained product of the civil service of Pakistan they knew the pitfalls of such projects and should have protected Pakistan accordingly, instead they became part of the scam.

 

Many years ago I wrote an article, and the main thrust of the article was to encourage the banks to lend more into the economy of Pakistan. The banking laws in Pakistan are so strict that a loan is impossible to get. The laws should be made more-friendly. Instead the banking rules are bent for the politically powerful. This leads to a default, then a politically-engineered write-off, adding to the power of the politician and the might of the banker.

 

These roles should be changed so that the loans are easier to process. The American system of easy lending for industries should be encouraged. If 50% of the industries fail, at least 50% will have survived to go on and become a productive part of the economy. There is no point in a bank with beautiful building and no industrial portfolio. It is industry that provides jobs and exports. Banks do not provide jobs nor export. This should be made clear to the lending institutions to come forward with borrower-friendly projects.

 

Prime Minister Imran Khan should appoint a banker whose mandate should be establishment and encouragement of new industries. Not just in the establishment of new and more profitable banks. The two banks, Summit and Silk, have been victims of the attack from the Zardari Group, showing clearly that politically-engineered collapses are easy prey and vulnerable to assault from the politicians.

 

The Prime Minister should make it mandatory for the banks to find new borrowers, and even allow a higher percentage of bad debts. A wealthy banker is of no value to a poor country struggling with poverty. The bankers must be made part of the economic turnaround if there is to be a miracle.

 

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