Articles of the year 2005

The Telecom Revolution
Published on February 24th, 2005

Pakistan is coming of age. The 500 million $ sale price for 2 Mobile licenses is indeed a great achievement, and does show the foreign interest in the local market here. It also shows that the rates that we Pakistanis are already paying here must be very lucrative for the foreigners to dig so deep into their pockets. Great going. At least we have access to a communication technology that is way ahead of our neighbours.

This is one very important step in the progress of a nation, the ability to communicate quickly and cheaply. Coupled with the strides in the IT we should be finding our way onto a higher economic level.However, there are a few concerns, which should be addressed immediately. The sugar Industry is already in a deep crisis, and 500,000, tons of sugar are being imported to meet the shortage within the country. This import at the peak of the crushing (manufacturing) season shows that a dangerous situation has developed and has been largely ignored by the media. The Sugar Mill owners are also strangely quiet. After the Textile industry this is the largest in terms of investment and employment, and in the grower support. Normally the power of the mill owners is enough to make the growers and Govt to adopt the policies dictated by them. In the past any import would have met with howls from this very powerful lobby, but strangely enough there is no complaint from any quarter.

While the media is full of the achievements of the Prime Minister and his team, these questions are not being asked. This is an important area because it deals with a manufacturing Industry, converting an agricultural product to a basic but essential commodity. New mobile phone companies that are rushing in are service providers, but they do not manufacture anything. They make money by letting you phone each other faster, clearer and quicker than before, and to transmit information that your newly graduated son still doesn't have a job. This should be our highest priority. With the huge influx of funds into the stock and property market, driving the Share market to newer records, none of these funds is actually being diverted to manufacturing. The only long term investment is in manufacturing. This is not happening. The danger is that when ,not if, the bubble of these records does collapse, these short term gains will leave devastation in their wake.' Not that the country will collapse, but we will have missed yet another opportunity to bring long term gains to the country by Industrialization. We may find that in our desire to bask in the glow of the Buzz words -- IT revolution and Mobile telephony, the new Mobile licensees will be tapping into our capital markets for their needs.

These moments are very few in the history of Nations, and if not seized they are fleeting, and will be gone. We shall then be chasing rainbows, ignoring the pot of gold that has been set before us. We should take a leaf out of the South Korean book, or many of our South East Asian countries and channel the funds into more production. As the President has said on many occasions, we should be at the forefront of investment, but that not being the case we should take a hard look at the causes and move rapidly to address them. We must stop making these trips to exotic Davos and Rio. Mr. Prime Minister go to Sialkot, Faislabad and to Karachi. Set up a base camp in these places. Let your businessmen in these cities be your vanguard in this new thrust. Gwadar can come later,These businessmen already have the skills and the ability to give you the necessary impetus in this direction.. They are already aware of what is required. They need the support and encouragement and they will deliver.