Uzair Ali comments on a crucial subject
Opportunities for overseas Pakistanis figure largely in the socio-economic scenario of Pakistan as they play a significant role in the affairs of the country. The crux of the matter is that people of Pakistan origin numbering almost 3 million have settled mainly in North America, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf, and the United Kingdom. Pakistan has been quite dependent on the remittances they send through banking channels as this financial assistance helps finance Pakistan’s economy.
Since the last two decades, any governmental change in Pakistan evoked tremendous interest amongst Pakistani Diaspora around the world. Pakistani diaspora has been quite successful in whatever pursuit it dedicated itself to. Many of its members achieved considerable financial prosperity and preferred to diversify their investments and chose Pakistan for it. Many others tried to follow suit but found working conditions in Pakistan not conducive and backed off. Instead, they preferred to invest in real estate assets and refrained from fully participating in trade and industry.
Pakistani entrepreneurs working abroad find the economic climate in Pakistan very daunting and find it difficult to operate here. The main block is a stimulating web of cumbersome regulations designed by Pakistani bureaucracy that aims to get its cut out of any entrepreneurial activity undertaken on the land. Pakistan is ranked 147 in the index of 190 countries designed to gauge the Ease of Doing Business.
The economic policies are highly inconsistent and are designed and ditched whimsically. Successive governments have not paid much attention to improving the regulatory conditions hampering the pursuance of proper entrepreneurial activity. The difficulty is compounded when it is realized that corrupt practices are not short-term. Still, a consistent problem as official agencies keep on demanding more gratification and resort to extraordinary measures if they are not obliged.
Pakistani Business Climates
The situation becomes untenable as the aggressive attitude of myriad agencies in the milking business is often treated with impunity and no action is taken against the marauders. Pakistani business climate also suffers from very poor dispute resolution and overseas Pakistanis face tremendous difficulties as they lack the kind of influential base the locals possess.
Many such investors returned penniless after their investment was disputed by their countrymen and they were not provided any assistance by a dispute-resolving mechanism. They found it difficult even to obtain justice from courts of law and were left with no option but to return to their foreign places of abode. Business practices in Pakistan are very opaque and a tremendous lack of transparency is observed in tendering and related processes.
No tender process is free of favoritism and underhand deals that opportunities for overseas Pakistanis learn to their frustration. Even the best bids are not accepted and there is no process to check excesses perpetrated in this aspect. Even a high-level government tendering process is found internationally suspect and devoid of a fair appraising mechanism.
Overseas Pakistanis find to their chagrin that most of the labor force they employ is poorly trained and Pakistani social indicators are so weak that the country stands at number 136 in the country rankings pertaining to Human Development Index.
The edifice of hope with which an overseas Pakistani begins his business in Pakistan evaporates when he experiences the substandard output delivered by his workforce. The problem is endemic as there is hardly any effort visible in providing modern-day training to the workforce that is condemned to keep on following the beaten track.
Opportunities For Overseas Pakistanis Tremendous
Despite the adversities, Pakistan offers tremendous opportunities to its overseas citizens to invest. Pakistan faces an acute shortage of skilled manpower and amongst a horde of unemployed, there are hundreds of thousands of vacancies lying vacant due to lack of skilled manpower. Overseas Pakistanis can fill this gap by setting up new learning institutions for imparting vocational training and technical and science education ranging from universities, colleges, and post-high school institutes to post-primary and secondary school apprentice workshops.
Some overseas Pakistanis are already helping health facilities in Pakistan but their contribution could earn them healthy dividends if they could help develop competent institutions in Peshawar, Quetta, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Bahawalpur, Multan, Sialkot, and Faisalabad. Overseas Pakistanis can provide intellectual leadership in designing, organizing, and collaborating in practical-oriented scientific research and applying the results of this research to enhance agriculture and industrial productivity in Pakistan.
Pakistan needs honest brokers between the foreign and host country firms because they had intimate knowledge of the multinational firms’ requirements and the understanding, contacts, and knowledge of the firm’s capabilities in their countries of origin. The large reservoir of Pakistanis working in multinationals can establish fruitful liaisons in Pakistan with well-established firms in Pakistan that can cater to their outsourcing needs according to international standards.
Overseas Pakistanis can very well help in forming joint ventures between American and European countries to develop Pakistan’s textile industry by providing design, technology, and marketing, services. At the same time, the actual production is carried out in the low-cost factories of Pakistan and the final output is shipped to Europe or North America. Such cooperation may provide renewed life to the almost extinct textile industry in the developing world and will not only create jobs in Pakistan but will also provide technical advancement to the Pakistani skilled workforce. The Weekender