One of Pakistan’s most celebrated business tycoons, Mian Muhammad Mansha Yahya, has said that while the Shehbaz Sharif-led regime has already taken some difficult decisions in tough times, it will have to swallow few more hard pills in days to come.
Talking to a news channel, Mian Mansha said, “I hope things will get better in a few months from now. The day the government opted for a hike in petrol prices, I observed that the volume of traffic plying on roads was less than normal. People are now no longer travelling unnecessarily and are hence displaying a lot of wisdom.
“This thinking pattern will surely reduce our oil consumption. I have suggested to government functionaries to give hope to the masses. Despite all the difficulties our people are embracing, I can see light at the end of tunnel.”
The noted business magnate, whose business group holds stakes ranging from cement, power, banking and automobiles to insurance and textiles, and whose media appearances are a rarity, added: “Today, world’s largest airports are being run by private sector. We can also take a leaf out their book and privatise the Lahore Airport, for instance, and this can be done within three months. Private sector control of airports would enhance public’s comfort levels.”
Mansha asserted: “Steps like privatisation will change the whole perception about the country and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) will automatically follow as investors will get signals that Pakistan is well poised on the road to recovery. Privatisation holds the key, I repeat. Why cannot we sell of Ghazi Barotha Hydro Power Dam? Do road shows etc to find prospective buyers. Similarly, a lot of work has already been completed on Kalabagh Dam. Feasibility reports are ready and so are the colonies for workers. We need to evolve a political consensus on it.
“Convince its critics that it is imperative to build it in order to prevent precious water to the tune of dozens of millions of acre feet from flowing into the sea, totally unutilised! Suppose this happens and what a huge news it would be for all of us. I also urge the establishment to ensure this dam is completed. Pakistani companies may not be of the same size as India’s Reliance, but are capable of doing what this conglomerate does across the border does. There is no dearth of will or ability here. Now that the NAB issue has been resolved, bring private investors to the fore. Win their confidence. Harassment will, of course, no longer be the order of the day.”
He said: “We need foreign exchange, and without exports, I do not foresee any economic salvation greeting us in future. We will have to attract FDI. Recently, when our government delegation visited Saudi Arabia, Prince Salman had reportedly urged the visitors to initiate some solid reforms instead of seeking financial assistance every now and then. The monarch said his country wanted to invest $30 to $40 billion in Pakistani industries. On the contrary, Prince Salman has injected $7.5 billion in India’s Reliance Industries owned by Mukesh Ambani. This group’s revenues had stood over $100 billion in 2022. Saudi Arabia has announced to invest $100 billion in India, and has already done 40 per cent of it.”
Mian Mansha opined that if Pakistan wanted Asian Development Bank, World Bank and other equity investors, etc, to assist it, it would have to be a part of the IMF programme. Our growth rate should not be less than 10 percent. Even the down-trodden Ethiopia is achieving this target. Philippines has elected a new President, Ferdinand Marcos Junior, and his family is tainted with corruption allegations. The third day he received a felicitation message from US President Joe Biden because the system in the country was moving. Let the system move and ills like corruption can be tackled. America also had mafias like steel in its early days.
The rail-road mafia was also very active, and so were the oil cartels, but its forefathers went ahead with development. There is a lot of talk going on in the UK regarding misappropriation in acquisition of corona vaccines, but system moves on. If our politicians keep trading barbs on television screens daily, the perception about corruption will build. Our primary issue is incompetence, not corruption. To fetch investment, private sector will have to do aggressive marketing and government will have to provide a conducive atmosphere. Foreign investors should be allowed to repatriate profits at will without a glitch or hurdle. Make them feel at home.”
Mian Mansha propounded: “Investment is very vital. It is like blood in veins. We have already seen the likes of Deutsche Bank, Greenwich Bank and Bank of America winding up operations in Pakistan, as did many other companies of global repute. It was due to lack of business confidence, red-tapism and government bottlenecks. Banking sector in Pakistan is profitable but government keeps milking it by levying extra taxes. The tax rate in Pakistan is about 29 per cent, but during the former PMLN regime, former Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had imposed an additional five per cent surcharge on banking profits to strengthen state tax revenues. Super charges should not be slapped and banking sector shouldn’t alone be targeted. Let the ones blooming flourish more.”
He said: “We should only borrow to grow, not to let these loans go down the drain. I cannot name a Middle Eastern country right now but it has promised to give us a $3 billion subsidised gas on credit besides keeping $2 billion in our reserves.” On trade with India, he observed: “We should commence trade with India for more prosperity. Have we got Held Kashmir by waging numerous wars against each other?”
By the way, Mansha has been one of the strongest voices and advocates of Pak-India trade in recent years — deeming it to be the foremost step that should be taken to alleviate poverty and reduce the ever-escalating military tensions on either side of the fence.
It is noteworthy that some of the worst enemies on the globe have excellent business ties. For example, trade volume between India and China hit a record high of $100 billion by November 2021 despite all acrimony. The American goods and services trade with China had totaled $657 billion in 2021 and the United States-Russia trade was at about $36 billion last year.