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Archive for November, 1991

Investment Promotion Conference

With support from an affiliate of the World Bank, Multi-lateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), the Federal Government organised a well-attended Investment Promotion Conference in Islamabad during the past week. It was incumbent upon the present regime to have an “open house” to display the willingness (and the readiness) of the present political government to change the lip-service of “encouraging” investment of yesteryears into reality. Before attempting to induce inviting foreign entrepreneurs to invest their money and time in Pakistan, the present Government had very correctly loosened the stranglehold that bureaucracy has over the body economic in Pakistan. During the past year far-reaching structural changes have been put into place and to that end a conducive economic environment is gradually taking shape. One must commend MIGA for investing time and effort in helping the Ministerial agencies concerned with making the Conference a relative success.

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PIA’s management paralysis

In an emulation of John F. Kennedy’s “Boston Mafia”, Nawaz Sharif (or rather his brother Shahbaz “Bobby Kennedy” Sharif) brought in close associates and friends from Lahore into the Federal Government and thus into the national mainstream. As long as a person is qualified for a particular post, there should be no heart-burning on this issue, to the victors must go the spoils, the discretion with which they exercise this right shows the level of political maturity. Any leader who does not bring his intimates and the party faithful to Camelot will get short shrift and the Sharif family have enough political savvy not to try and buck the system. There is a genuine requirement to have political loyalists in critical management positions, inherently motivated to assess, analyse, then issue and carry out command decisions.

Several weeks ago, a member of the “Lahore Mafia” inner sanctum was made Chairman of PIA. Mumtaz Hameed is a successful, young businessman having proven commercial talents. In trying to emulate Mian Rafiq Saigol’s successful tenure as Chief Executive of the Airline in the 1970s during the PPP regime, the recipe for success was pretty straightforward, a private entrepreneur would bring fresh dynamism to the national airline, a competent and successful management executive from the private sector is almost always a plus point in the public sector. As regards his confidante-status with the ruling elite, it is always a bonus if your Chief Executive has special access into the inner circle of the country’s ruling elite. Mumtaz Hameed took over from Nawaz Tiwana, who was doubling as Managing Director (MD) and Acting Chairman after the departure of Air Chief Marshal Farooq Feroze Khan to the post of the Chief of Air Staff. Nawaz has risen up the ladder through PIA’s management hierarchy, one of the handful of bright young airline management executives who were aspirants to become MD earlier till one of the deserving ones, Arif Ali Abbassi, got the nod from the Benazir Government. When politicians stay out too long in the cold, political patronage can run amok, somewhere men of conscience have to draw the line. Arif soon became history as he could not keep pace with extraneous demands of the Client-Patronage system, mostly requests for employment. Thus despite the fact that he raised the wages of PIA staff, brought down the foreign currency overdraft from US $ 92 million to US $ 50 million and left Rs 2000 million in local currency surplus. Air Marshal Farooq Feroze Khan became MD in addition to being Chairman and he in turn made three Deputy Managing Directors (DMDs), Nawaz Tiwana, Arshad Mahmood and Khurshid Anwar, the latter two had been charge-sheeted for corruption and misuse of official position. On the departure of Air Chief Marshal Farooq Feroze Khan, Nawaz Tiwana was deservedly elevated to MD and took over also as Acting Chairman. To all accounts, he greeted the appointment of Mumtaz Hameed as Chairman with an open mind. If he resented the younger man’s taking over the top slot in PIA, it did not show in his demeanour or attitude.

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The Marcos parallel

President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines died in exile in the US a few years ago. As he fled the country, crowds entered the Malacanang Palace to gawk at Imelda Marcos’ collection of over 3,000 pairs of shoes. More than anything else, those shoes symbolized the corruption and ostentatious vulgarity that brought Marcos down from an imperial Presidency of an impoverished country. Cory Aquino succeeded him as President, street power overturning the obvious electoral fraud in the Presidential elections, the government machinery had earlier declared Marcos elected in defiance of the tabulated facts.

The Marcoses had systematically looted their country, the many bank accounts frozen in tax haven countries are safe witness to that. From the first day of her incumbency, President Cory Aquino devoted considerable effort to recover the looted millions, most of her pains to that end resulted in frustration because of legal obstacles. While cash was difficult to locate, real estate was comparatively easier to trace, as was the details of Mrs Marcos extravagant shopping sprees in New York and other fashion capitals of the world. Even the aircraft carrying the Marcoses into exile had millions of dollars in cash and kind that were obviously fraudulently obtained.

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Finance and power

The Nawaz Sharif Government is determined to create a world record of sorts in effecting the quickest privatisation in history. While the determination in the maintenance of their AIM is commendable, there is definite doubt about whether this policy of haste has been well thought out before being put into implementation.

To start the process, the present Federal Government took advantage of the homework done earlier in the denationalisation process by the PPP regime with respect to MCB and went ahead with that sale within 60 days of the IJI forming the Government. While criticism was levied at the seemingly hasty fire-sale to a Consortium of those believed to be the favourites of the PM, there is sufficient reason to believe that among the bids made, the offer accepted was the most responsive. Conceded that the price was low, it was after all the first open tender offer and potential investors were very conservative in their bids, the benefit of doubt should go to the Federal Government.

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