CEO Maple Leaf Capital, Waleed Saigol, has said that businesses grow in Pakistan but at a slow pace, and the problem lies within the policies and mindset of the country’s power groups.
Speaking at a virtual conference hosted by Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) on Thursday, with prominent businessmen, including over a hundred chief executive officers (CEOs) and leaders of the business community, in attendance to discuss “Why Businesses Do Not Grow in Pakistan?”, he said that ironically, Pakistan had developed nuclear bombs under pressure, however, state institutions “didn’t prioritise economic and business growth”.
“The role of media is also questionable… our news anchors do not bring these issues to the public, besides, we as a nation like to discuss controversies to malign each other. If we want to see business growth in Pakistan, we have to sort out interference by the country’s institutions,” Saigol maintained.
In response to Saigol, Dr Nadeemul Haq, the vice chancellor of PIDE, said, “Undoubtedly, Pakistan is a talent-repellent state. All our talented people go and serve in big companies around the world rather than working here.”
While moderating the conference, Dr Haq took the conversation to Alman Aslam, who is a business advisor to local and foreign companies.
“We need to understand why all this is happening in Pakistan. A businessperson here has to do many things that have nothing to do with business growth, but for the mere survival of his or her company,” Aslam said.
“Company owners are harassed by corrupt tax collection authorities of Pakistan,” he alleged, adding that it reminded him of centuries-old tax collection practices.
“The court system is flawed, take a matter to court and you will not get justice in 20 years. Besides, how can private companies excel when the government is intervening in every business? We have authorities like the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) that bully and interfere in the matters of private companies. If you want companies to grow, just allow them to grow.”
An argument was raised in the discussion that Pakistani businessmen cannot think globally, in response to which Saigol said, “We cannot think globally because we are not allowed to think globally.”
“The illogical policies of the government don’t let businessmen make viable investments here in Pakistan or anywhere abroad. Similarly, no foreign company will come here to invest. It took Lucky Cement Group two years to send $50 million to Africa to set up their plant,” Saigol added, lamenting that to transfer $1 million, you needed an approval from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), and to make a payment of more than $10 million, you needed an approval from the Economic Corridor Committee (ECC).
“Just imagine the level of regulations here,” he concluded.