KARACHI: It seems to me that our policy-makers and rulers are enslaved in a ‘borrower’s mindset’ instead of having an outlook that seeks to generate income and wealth through entrepreneurial activity. This mentality is typified by the example of certain influential persons who abuse their political power and positions to obtain bank loans to set up sugar mills. Despicable as it may be, this mindset informs such politicians and bureaucrats-turned-businessmen that borrowing internationally and domestically is the only route to development and prosperity.
On the other hand, the entrepreneurial attitude works to create (instead of borrow) the conditions and environment conducive to the generation of wealth. The essence of entrepreneurship is identifying needs and utilising pre-existing resources to fulfil it. This does not necessarily require huge investments – but it does require organisation and focusing attention on ‘managing by objectives’. Once this is ensured, investors and businesses are lured into the country because they feel that their talents and assets will be optimally utilised. In such a scenario, the government’s role as a facilitator to entrepreneurs is more critical than its role as self-appointed operator of the economy.
Pakistan, like all other countries of the world, is teeming with entrepreneurship possibilities. Some areas, can be exploited with the help of existing infrastructure and little direct investment and, if good management is ensured, can provide opportunities for ample revenue generation.
Local and international tourism
Pakistan is one of the most gifted countries in the world as far as tourist attractions are concerned. There are numerous potential hotel operators and investors in the country. What we need is a sense of security and an efficient transportation system. Rail and air transportation infrastructures already exist, but are seriously mismanaged due to incompetence. It is wrong to assume that no one will come to our ‘dangerous’ country, because there are countries in the word much more dangerous than ours who still manage to attract tourists. After all, tourists have spent millions in African countries just to get a closer look at cannibal tribes!
Education for foreign students
We once had students from the Middle East and Africa attend our medical and engineering institutions, but their numbers have gradually diminished due to causes that can be still be addressed and resolved.
Health and medical facilities for foreign patients
Countries like Cuba are a prime destination for medical tourism, and neighbouring India is set to secure itself a slice of that pie. It would be a good idea to provide well-managed and well-administered medical services to patients from regional countries in areas which Pakistani doctors specialise in.
Numerous films have recently been made that required Pakistani locations. Most filmmakers working on such projects opted to recreate Pakistani streets in India rather than come to Pakistan. The government could ensure security and cooperation to international film crews to attract them to the country.
Curbing the black market
The government needs to legalise and regulate opium cultivation and the import of liquor. These are multibillion-dollar black market activities that can bring two distinct advantages if redressed efficiently: create revenue and reduce smuggling.
Value addition to food products
Value adding processes in fisheries, poultry, animal farming, and agricultural produce for domestic and international markets will not only generate revenue, but incentives for preservation methods will also reduce wastage of foodstuffs.
The purpose of this piece is not just to highlight a list of low-investment, high-return opportunities that exist in our country, but also to encourage a paradigm shift in our outlook; from finding quick fixes to being enterprising with originality.
The writer writes on socioeconomics and has a background in trading and exports in the private sector.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 26th, 2012.