If China Can Have Business Ties with India, Why Can’t We?- Mian Mansha

“If China can have business ties with India despite its territorial disputes, why can’t we?”
Mian Mansha

Mian Mohammad Mansha, billionaire textile, automobile, and banking tycoon who is the chairman of the Nishat Group, one of the country’s largest and most diversified business conglomerates, gave an interview to Dawn earlier this week. Mansha emphasized that there is always room for difficult decisions no matter how severe the constraints are.

“If we want to make this economy competitive, we will have to make difficult decisions; we will have to go after structural issues and fix the basic problems dragging down the economy.”


He also stressed correcting the fundamentals of the economy and strengthening the foundations upon which the economic superstructure is built to create a business-friendly and investment-friendly environment. “We must fix our justice system, law enforcement, education, and bureaucracy and downsize the government by pulling it out of the businesses it has no business running,” Mansha said adding that “once you pull off these fundamental changes, you’ll easily manage to increase the size of the pie and take care of your longstanding problems which include a narrow tax base and abysmally low tax collection”.

Related: Mian Mansha Thinks Pakistan Should Resume Trade with India

Most people believe that the budget, which outlines the nation’s fiscal strategy for the following year, falls far short of addressing important issues, such as broadening the tax base by netting income from the real estate, retail, and agricultural sectors. The message is sent that if you are an illegal person and a tax evader, you can continue to live like that and no one would disturb you. This increases the tax burden on the compliant formal corporate sector.

Mian Mansha with his sons and their families, in his Jaguar E-class convertible, outside the family home in Lahore

Mian Mansha’s worries add to the dissatisfaction among businessmen over the government’s decision to pass what many refer to as a “neither-here-nor-there” kind of budget, which fell short of taking decisive action for reviving the economy. However, the “tough decisions” Mian Mansha was referring to have nothing to do with these issues specifically. He said:

“Our real problems are much deeper than our taxation issues. We must look at the larger picture. These are symptoms of the disease and not the disease itself. One should treat the disease first, and the symptoms will go away. I want an environment where people can grow their businesses, where people have jobs, and where people have money. We need to improve our regulatory environment, make our systems functional and let the people invest and work. Once we create this kind of environment, our tax net and collection will also increase manifold.”

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Mansha, one of the leading exporters in the country, claims that just increasing exports won’t help the nation replenish its depleted foreign currency reserves or resolve its ongoing balance of payments issues. He cited India as an example and said that if you want to improve your external sector and accumulate foreign exchange reserves, you must accomplish this by luring both domestic and foreign private investment.

“India has done it that way. (Unlike Pakistan) they have been in just one International Monetary Fund program since 1991 and never looked back. Foreign companies are flocking to that country. This is because Indians have implemented tough reforms to facilitate investors and investment. In Pakistan, on the other hand, we see foreign investors running away. This is because there is no rule of law here, and no one respects the sanctity of the contracts. Sri Lanka has come out of a similar crisis because of the respect for the law and the sanctity of contracts in that country. Why should anyone invest here if they have better, more attractive places to invest?”

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Mansha, who loves fast cars, bought his first during his student days in London in the 1960s—a canary yellow Jaguar.

When you gain the confidence of investors, they will begin investing in your economy, which will help you solve most of your difficulties, including those relating to the balance of payments, low industrial and agricultural productivity, exports, tax revenues, etc insisted Mansha. There will be nothing that can stop you; all you have to do is expand the economy and attract more foreign investors.

Related: Should We Begin Importing Second-Hand Cars from India?

Mian Mansha, who has built a diverse business empire starting with a single textile mill, now owns Nishat Textiles, MCB Bank, and Hyundai Nishat Motors, stated that Pakistan should try to increase regional trade with its neighbors, Iran, Afghanistan, and India. He believes trade with Afghanistan will enable trade beyond it to the Central Asian states, helping earn billions of dollars just by giving these landlocked states access to the world. Likewise, the resumption of trade with India will open up many business opportunities.

“If China can have vibrant trade and business ties with India despite its territorial disputes, why can’t we? I think there’s nothing better than having good relations with your neighbors. And you can’t change neighbors.”

We need to settle our differences with our neighbors. Let any obstacles remain out there, no matter what they are. But I believe the doors will start opening if people travel to each other’s countries for trade and tourism, Mansha concluded.

Source: Dawn

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