Interview by Engr. Asghar Hayat
Sheikh Amir Waheed is the President Islamabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry(ICCI). He was elected unopposed as the President in 2017-18 elections of Islamabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ICCI). “It was the trust and love of people from commerce and industry who elected me unopposed and now it’s time to reciprocate this love by getting solutions to their issues”, he told to Engr Asghar Hayat, Executive Editor Monthly Engineering Cap during an interview. Engineering Cap (EC) is publishing a special issue with a focus on ICCI to highlight achievements, challenges, opportunities. The salient details of the recent interview is as follows:
EC: What achievements have you made in three months after your election as President?
Sheikh Amir: First of all I would like to talk from Chamber’s perspective and share the work that has commenced on long pending issues.
For example, we have started construction of an Export Display Centre, developing Business Growth Centre at first floor of ICCI building which is expected to be completed in a month or so. We are also setting up China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Facilitation Centre, and establishing International Business Facilitation Centre which would be completed in approximately two months. We have also developed Research & Development (R&D) Department which was neglected in the past. Membership system has been automated while a mobile application to keep all the members informed is also in development phase.
We have resolved taxation issues of our business community, we have invited Chairman of Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and Chief Commissioner a couple of times. Business community especially restaurant owners had issues of rings with income and sales tax authorities which have been resolved now. We have settled the issues of PSQC chemists with our efforts. We have been successful in connecting innovators and investors as we invited 83 innovators from across Pakistan and exposed them to industry through UNIDO. Young entrepreneurs and innovators got lot of benefits from it.
EC: what are your up-coming programs?
Sheikh Amir: We are planning a huge industrial exhibition in Islamabad along with a conference on international business opportunities in coming months. We are also going to organize a conference in collaboration with diplomats to enhance the bilateral trade. All political parties and chambers of business and industry are being invited and in February to a conference to give economic agenda to all political parties to be implemented in next five years. At least five to six trade delegations will visit different countries i.e. America, England, Central Asian Countries to enhance trade with these countries. We are also working out for “Look Africa” conference at ICCI, to explore the African Market.
EC: Can we be considered technologically backward? If so, what steps need to be taken?
I would say we are technologically far behind other countries, R&D is being totally a neglected sector in our country which puts us out of competition. We don’t have R&D trend in manufacturing or in agriculture sector. We don’t have innovation in agricultural field as compared to other countries where they are getting agriculture yield double than us. Under such conditions, how could we compete with rest of the world? First of all we will have to make our R & D sector strong after that we will have to focus on light engineering. We have very little concept of light engineering, as a result we import even tiny things from other countries. Private sector is striving to develop R & D Sector but it is the responsibility of Government to develop it through public private partnership. Government should announce incentives to develop this sector.
There are many things linked with CPEC, China is economic superpower, it is very difficult to compete with an economic superpower while we are taking it lightly. They use mass production and their cost is low as compared to us, that’s why they are successful. We need to focus on mass productions also.
EC: What steps should be taken to make monitoring policy strong?
Sheikh Amir: First of all, free the industry by putting off all bans and restrictions, best example is of the sugar industry. Government has restricted it in many ways, like being restricted area-wise, “ you can’t grow here or there”. As a result grower is in trouble. There should be an open policy for everyone. Such policy which should help industry to grow more rather than to shrink.
EC: Which policy is best Nationalization or Privatization?
Sheikh Amir: At the time when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto started Nationalization policy, industry was growing. Had there been no nationalization policy, our country would have achieved much economic growth. Light engineering and SME sector was destroyed due to the nationalization policy. At this stage privatization is need of the hour. Look at Pakistan Railways, Pakistan Steel, PIA and other nationalized institutions. All of these intuitions are burden on national economy, they are consuming 700 to 800 billion every year. If this 700-800 billion would have spent on private sector or innovations results would have been very different. I am of the opinion that these intuitions should be privatized, or, run under public-private partnership. If it is not possible to sell them at high cost, government should not delay selling them at a low price because they are burden to economy and halt to way of progress. This all issue has been politicized by opposition and political forces, they had injected people in these organizations in the past and now they want to save them.
Government does not realize that when a person starts an industry he creates jobs for several hundred people, while he has to deal with dozens of institutions to actually operationalize the industry. There should be a one window operation. Government should introduce a policy of “ease of doing business” rather than tease of doing business. ICCI has put forward many recommendations, but I think there is issue of political will. Bureaucracy is a big hurdle to country’s progress.
EC: How much Industrial Zones are important in CPEC perspective?
Sheikh Amir: CPEC is a big project but it is in planning phase and government has not even acquired land for most of projects under CPEC. Total nine economic zones are announced by Government but only one is completed, land for rest of eight is not acquired so far. On the other hand, China is working on fast track. I am pursuing government to involve private sector in developing economic zones as in government sector decision making is slow that’s way projects are delayed. Private sector will acquire land and will help government to develop industry in these zones.
Q: what would you say about our academia? What ICCI is doing for developing strong Academia-Industry Linkages?
In my opinion, our academic sector is very weak, we need to focus on it. One system of education is necessary to make economy grow. We are trying to make academia-industry linkages strong and ICCI is working on different formulas in this regards. We are conducting research studies in collaboration with universities. We would like to invite universities to join hands with us, because youngsters are our future, we are also establishing business growth center to train youth for entrepreneurship. Main problem is that our human resource is not skilled, once it gets skilled it can be utilized in various ways. Our engineering sector is also very week and lots of work need to be done in IT sector to utilize our human resource.
EC: What message you will give to young entrepreneurs through Engineering CAP?
Sheikh Amir: Entrepreneurs should involve themselves in SME sector and try to start at small scale focusing on innovative ideas. There are many examples, people started from small rooms and now they have a mega business. They should study the successful models before starting work.
EC: How can we make Islamabad an Industrial City?
Sheikh Amir: Islamabad was not initially built as an industrial city but with the passage of time industry grew here and now this is expanding, people from far away areas came here and started their industry. Now the problem here is that rates of property are very high being the capital of the country, I will suggest government to create SME hubs in adjoining areas of Islamabad so that the industry could expand and flourish in this region.