The Economic Genocide of Karachi
Peaceful environment is vital for economic growth and national prosperity. Citizens need an assurance of quality of life and this is possible thru income generation, social and physical infrastructure, security and safety, and political stability in their locality. At the same time, foreign and domestic investors, business and industrial community, and banking and stock exchange clients and customers want solid surety that their investment would be safe and profitable.
Karachi is the largest city of Pakistan with an estimated population of around 20 million and has the largest informal sector as well as the largest number of home-based workers. It accounts for a lion’s share in Pakistan’s revenue generation by contributing about 68% (KCCI annual report 2010-11) or 65% (as per City District Government Karachi report) to the national exchequer. All national and international surveys, reports, and analyses confirm that Karachi is the mainstay of the Pakistani economy.
Karachi contributes about 55% to Pakistan's GDP, that is, about US$ 98 billion, projected to reach $130 billion by 2015 provided peace is restored in the city and suburbs. Of course, Karachi’s high share in GDP is due to its large industrial base. Karachi has 15,000 formal industrial units in its 5 industrial zones while there are 360 markets spread all over the city. It is estimated by this writer that the daily loss to the national GDP is Rs 2 billion for every hour that Karachi remains non-operational.
During the previous government’s tenure, the policies of Premier Shaukat Aziz encouraged substantial bullish activity at the Stock Exchanges. This led to a huge cash surplus that needed to be channelized to productive usage. At the same time Dubai witnessed a construction boom. Thus a formidable flight of capital was witnessed as billions of dollars were transferred thru Hundi and Hawala or thru couriers from Pakistan to UAE. This was done neither due to law and order nor due to political instability. The prime reason was the fabulous opportunities for short-term profits and the enchanting lure of Dubai.
Today, the flight of capital is in tandem with the pull-out of investment and the root cause has been the criminalization of Karachi, the breakdown of the security apparatus, and the juvenile efforts and actions of the political parties. Moreover, the near-collapse of the energy sector has proved to be extremely detrimental. Resultantly, foreign investment has dipped by 35% while domestic investment is on hold at this moment. The Stock Exchanges are at a downward trend and this has affected investment in real estate and other hitherto profitable ventures. Non-performing loans portfolio of banks is alarmingly high and State Bank of Pakistan has not been able to curb the menace of inflation.
It is entirely possible, although there are no credible facts and figures, that billions of dollars have been transferred to Malaysia, UAE, Bangladesh, and even Sri Lanka. Although most of the entrepreneurs do not acknowledge their foreign investment, the market gossip confirms that between 9 and 12 home textile manufacturers have set up industries in Bangladesh. The readymade garments manufacturers are taking a delegation to Bangladesh after Eid to scout joint ventures and investment possibilities. It is to be noted that since January 2011, European Union has allowed semi-finished and finished fabrics from SAARC countries if used by other SAARC countries, including Bangladesh, under the regime of SAARC Regional Cumulation in which the value-added products made from these intra-SAARC exports by Bangladesh would also be eligible for GSP+.
The industrialists of Karachi have to suffer law and order situation, power shortages, low water supply, and gas difficulties, as well as Pakistan not enjoying GSP+ for exports to EU. Furthermore, the trade and industry community is subject to extortion and arm-twisting by...
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