Articles of the year 2007

Easy Come may easy Go
Published on February 02nd, 2007

The President will soon be taking off for a trip to Malaysia, and will have returned by the time this piece has been published. And so I would like to take a few minutes to jot down the amazing developments he will have viewed first hand, and compare it with what he is coming back to.

While he is being fed on a high glitz diet, laced with the number of cars on the roads, and the number of mobile phone companies that are swamping the airwaves and the print media offering their wares. There are serious anomalies in both cases. The increase in the number of cars is making three manufacturers richer, and of course the major beneficiary are the banks whose spread is increasing. The fact that my gardener has a mobile phone has not really improved his lot, but may make him aware of the other missing bits. It may give him the mobility to go from one job gardening to another, but has not given him the opportunity for a better job. The same applies to the flood of Graduates entering the job market. There are no openings for them, and none being created. Exports are not only static, but declining, as industries are being closed facing the imports of goods from China, with no new industries in the pipeline.

What is also extremely dangerous is absence of commercial building activity, a true indicator of the long term plans for the new moneys. That is, if there are long term plans. A classic case is the Hyatt hotel which was bought by the now richest man in Pakistan. We were all delighted, because this eyesore, we felt would be brought down, and a brand new skyscraper would come up , something that Karachi would be proud of. To our disgust, it stands there, in the heart of the city, with an abandoned look, receiving pitiful looks from passers by, as with a cripple on the footpath. Surely if the owner cannot be bothered, then the City Fathers should demolish it, and put a park thereon. It does seem that all the effort in beautifying Karachi, is being countered by this one hideous shell, surrounded by the top hotels in Karachi, whose foreign visitors must be getting some very wrong signals.

Other than the MCB building on II Chundrigar Road, nothing seems to be coming up. The President will have seen some magnificent buildings in Kuala Lumpur, all very recent, and of course in Dubai, but here in Pakistan, the citizens prefer to keep there money buried in plots in Defence or Gwadar, fuelling even more speculation. This should alert the President into taking notice of the lack of meaningful economic activity. In any country the economic leaders are men driven by the urge to make money,-- this is necessary for the formation of capital, but not if the money is not put to use. Surely the Stock Market operators should be questioned, when they are receiving the awards of the highest, the best etc what they have done in providing new jobs. For PSO to be the best company in Pakistan, with the highest share price, or to be the only Pakistani company in Forbes is a letdown if it has not created new jobs. It will make for a fabulous sale to a predator foreign buyer, but there has been no horizontal expansion what so ever. In the sixties, to name just the Valika family, who branched out into Cement, Wool, Chemicals, and Shipping. The Saigols did the same in their Kala Shah kaku complex, but in Pakistan there has been no such spread into areas other than the Stock Market. The Dawood family also diversified, and even with the loss of its East Pakistan arm still managed to move into new areas.

Mr President the buildings you will have seen in Malaysia, all are filled with workers, who are in various industrial enterprises, and have made enough domestically, to now make serious investments in Pakistan, while we watch them without learning from them Finally the current richest crop in Pakistan, while concentrating on the Stock market should take care that the market is notoriously fickle, and it can go as easily as it comes, so the country would be better off if there were a few thousand industrial workers or industries still standing, to mourn your passing.