JSunday news (TNS): You started with one business and now you are accelerating business growth in multiple sectors as well. What are the three basic drivers of your successful business expansion model?
Abdullah Shah Bokhari (ASB): Passion steers the ship of a successful organization. When I founded the GIE, I was very aware of the fact that the business world requires preparation like a marathon and not a sprint. I firmly believe in being “obsessed” with your work. You also have to be disciplined. We built the company brick by brick while maintaining our core values, mission and competitive organizational structure.
TNS: What major opportunities do you anticipate in agricultural commodity trading in the coming years? How to transform our agricultural mechanisms?
BSA: Pakistan is a resource-rich country with vast topography, diverse agricultural landscape and four seasons. Despite this, the country risks becoming a net food importer. The food import bill for the first eight months of the current fiscal year is $6.4 billion.
I firmly believe that among the two wings of our commodity trading, that is to say, cash-settled futures and deliverable futures, the latter can play a vital role in helping the economy. However, deliverable futures contracts present a unique set of complexities. A recent initiative by PMEX under the name of Global Commodity Trading Platform (GCTP) has opened up a gateway of opportunity. Selling products electronically to foreign buyers can break the shackles of vicious circles for farmers who are subject to the manipulation of mediators. This could prove to be an important step in stimulating our economy. A better understanding of changes in supply and demand, business practices, risk management, effective quality assurance and a well-developed support infrastructure can transform the market and increase the number of market players.
TNS: What measures are needed to revive our economy?
BSA: Certain uncertainties in the system must be removed to strengthen both social justice and economic growth. Unfortunately, there is no reliable system in place to educate farmers. It is often said that “our peasant is born in debt, grows up in debt and dies in debt”.
Education can change this not only by improving farmers’ farming skills and productivity, but also by empowering them to make the right decisions. Our farmers work in difficult conditions. Clear identification of long-term goals and awareness of practices related to marketing and finance can eliminate agricultural risks and allow farmers to benefit from well-dosed pesticides, balanced fertilizers and good land preparation. . Agricultural education combines applied sciences and business management. To create a strong threshold effect and get the ball rolling, it is important to disseminate vital information. As the main driver of socio-economic development, agriculture can drive social progress and bring about economic transformation.
Pakistan should capitalize on its salt mines and ban illegal salt hoarding and export through non-competitive tenders.
TNS: How can we increase opportunities in the agricultural sector?
BSA: I believe without a shadow of a doubt that agricultural industries can alleviate food insecurity and the climate crisis. These can also improve economic opportunities for Pakistan. Agriculture can improve farmers’ livelihoods, create jobs and generate reasonable profits for investors. Continuous research and development is necessary to ensure food safety. Progress on this front will also facilitate environmental sustainability. The responsibility does not necessarily have to lie with the government alone; the private sector should play its part by investing in various agriculture-related projects through the Mushurakah model.
TNS: How can we boost export-oriented production in Pakistan?
BSA: Our Asian counterparts are taking the lead due to their higher level of integration with regional and global markets. Explanations for Pakistan’s lackluster growth lie in our huge reliance on international trading intermediaries, low margins, vulnerable price and terms of trade swings, energy shortages, unfavorable trade policies , tariff and non-tariff barriers and unnecessary customs procedures.
As far as exports are concerned, a relatively low productivity growth rate is an obstacle. To keep pace with global food demand; we must move from growth generated by domestic demand to growth based on exports. For this, we need to have precise, geographically-explicit knowledge about gap analysis with local to global relevance aligned with potential market segmentation ranking and sorting methods. Our decision makers, development professionals and entrepreneurs can cultivate avenues of growth by promoting our products to create demand and find the best match to manage supply and demand bottlenecks. Exports are not a “one size fits all” model. A successful reorientation of our trade policies will take into account export destination accreditation protocols. Understanding what is legal in each market is crucial. Quality assurance must be accredited.
Additionally, educating farmers can improve productivity outcomes which can create an overall impact on export-led growth. That said, we need to build capacity for growth by linking research to strategies to conform to Pakistan’s economic growth potential.
TNS: Mineral resources can offer some countries incredible opportunities for economic development. How can mineral resources change Pakistan’s export landscape?
BSA: Pakistan has a comparative advantage in certain minerals. It is a home, for example, to some of the largest salt mines and coal reserves. Himalayan salt or pink salt is mined from the Khewra salt mines in the foothills of the Jhelum Salt Range. However, it is exported at low prices to China and India. India then re-exports it around the world, labeled as “Made in India”.
Pakistan should learn to capitalize on its salt mines and ban illegal hoarding and export through non-competitive tenders. We should also seek “topographical indications” from the World Intellectual Property Organization.
The dynamics of exports now put aside the old rules. Business is more about managing information; our lazy export mechanisms need deep reform. The government should reconsider the terms of its mining leases and impose heavy taxes on exporters. Taxpayers should receive fair market value for the national resource.
The author is a staff member of International news