Articles of the year 2006

Un-Fulfilled Promises
Published on June 22nd 2006

For a long time, we, the people have been fed a diet of promises. Every time, every aspirant to power promises that under his rule Pakistan will turn into a land of prosperity. This prosperity seems as elusive as the holy grail, and when voted into the opposition he goes on of what could have been.Similarly every incumbent states that his rule has been the most beneficial, and it is indeed "Pakistan shining." The reality is far from any Shining, and the huge profits made by the few individuals will not allow a trickle down effect to make any difference to the large numbers of the have-nots. And so the Poverty line is on a continuing downward slope, with no relief in sight.

What is required is a dynamic increase in the employment in all aspects of the economy. Glamorous sectors like Banking need not be privatized (Habib Bank), but the grip of the bureaucrat must be broken and the genius of the private sector be given free rein. A prime example is that of Union Bank ( a part of the troubled Kohinoor Group)which was taken over a scant five years ago, by Shaukat Tareen an ex-citibanker, and has just been bought by a large Multinational Bank at a huge premium.( A figure which is rumoured to be far in excess of what the Aga Khan paid for Habib Bank , while being thanked by the GOP profusely for taking a white elephant off our hands. A master stroke of Public relations.) This makes it clear that there is a sector of the economy that is viable, and can be successful. The difference between Habib Bank and Union was the non-interference of Islamabad in the Union Bank. This allowed the Bank to thrive, and was seen as the most aggressive of all the banks. It also provided the best working environment for the young MBAs and the bank is one of the most sought after in the job market. This statistic alone makes it a success story.

Pakistan has produced many good bankers in the past- and this is a good sign, and like the IT sector there will always be a demand for good professional bankers. Pakistani bankers are seen in faraway lands like Nigeria and Kenya where their professionalism is highly rated. Shaukat Aziz has had a good effect on the Banking Industry for being from them he knows the problems, and the pitfalls. Likewise he knows how to encourage them. In the past the few banks were chasing the Government deposits, now the race is on for the public at large. Consumerism is only one part of banking. Unfortunately it is the most visible, and raises the most hackles. The critics will travel in their leased cars, and crib about high number of cars on the roads, --- they should not be listened to as they are professional gripers. We have to look at the number of jobs that have been created, for these are quality jobs, where the parents can be proud of having their children placed.

Aviation was a good sector, but Islamabad has put an end to that. What with PIA's routes shrinking, and the role of Karachi Airport now a fraction of what it was designed for, the need is for a strong leader at the helm of PIA someone who does not take orders from a Joint Secretary, to bring it back into being a player, which may already be too late.The largest single opportunity is the Pakistan Railways, which needs to be headed by a dynamic business leader of today. He will need to apply his marketing skills, by first improving the image of the Railways, and make it glamorous for the young jobseeker. In my childhood every youngster aspired to be a train driver, this dream changed to becoming a pilot. And the Airlines prospered by attracting the best.

The future of Pakistan is tied to the Railways, for IF the President's dream of linking Pakistan to China is to be turned into a reality, then the only alternate is bringing the Railways to the 21st century. The track should be doubled or tripled, and laid all the way into China, for both countries to realize their full access to the markets in the region.This can only happen if the best of the young are attracted into the sector, by bringing a glamorous quality to the job, and then allowing them to bring the ideas and vigor of youth into play. If railways continue to be considered to be a hardship post then the Railways will never recover from their decline, and Pakistan will have lost the Backbone of their Transport system. We missed out on the River transport, and we have relegated the Railways to the least preferred in the Job Market.