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FPCCI: A bridge between businessmen and corporate sector

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Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) is an apex body of traders in Pakistan like any other country plays pivotal role and offers collective opinion of business community, their concern and acts as eyes and ears of private sector to communicate with the government and provide them necessary guidance and assistance to promote exports and encourage foreign investment to boost the economic activity in the country. Unfortunately somehow or the other over the years due to internal politics and rivalries it badly affected the performance and members got divided in different groups. When there is division it affects the overall performance. One year is not very big period it demands strict discipline and cooperation from all. FPCCI is divided in to two main groups and even after elections they remain tense.FPCCI elections are taken very seriously because of its unique position and privileges it carries. The two major parties or groups are Businessmen Panel (BMP) and United Business Group (UBG). Each year elections are held in the last week of December. UBG had the unique distinction of winning elections consecutively for 5 years. However the tables were turned down in 2020 elections when business community reposed confidence in BMP leadership and they won the FPCCI elections with handsome majority. Before the elections lot of heat was observed followed by mudslinging campaign throwing accusations against rivals, like general elections. Business community had high hope and expectations from the new team elected in 2020 but were disappointed when FPCCI failed to rescue the traders when their businesses were badly hit due to corona virus. They were expecting some handsome relief package from government but FPCCI did not come up to their expectations. Most hit are the SME’s for which no relief package has been announced. However after lot of efforts of FPCCI and hue and cry by builders government moved and offered handsome package to revive construction industry that did give boost to dying economy as it further helped over other allied 50 industries. Frequent lock down had added more problems for the industrialists plus sick industrial units had rendered huge unemployment. In spite of forced shut down of their businesses the business community continued looking after their employees as much as it was possible. Government’s amnesty schemes were launched a good gesture and provided opportunity to all to whiten their black money but it was restricted to construction industry. There was need to broaden its base to accommodate other industries like power steel and textile.
BMP really worked very hard and clinched the victory second time in a row by retaining almost all important seats in spite of the tough battle, but UBG has also done well, specially neck to neck fight for president’s slot between UBG ‘s Khalid Tawab and BMP Naseer Hyatt Magoo remained interesting throughout in which BMP begged the seat of president FPCCI but with very narrow margin
Let us find out as to why UBG lost elections in succession for two years. There can be many reasons but here would like to mention just three major reasons. Firstly seniors don’t listen to juniors and get surrounded by yes man who are preferred but not realising they don’t carry vote. Secondly once decision is taken it must satisfy those who have been ignored, instead of satisfying them dictatorial approach is adopted to silence them. A proper debriefing must be held after each election whether you win or lose to find out causes of defeat and in case of winning what further steps be taken to enhance the voting bank. Pakistan economically is in serious trouble, no amount of concessions and adjustments in taxes can boost the economy until and unless all sick units are given relief package and cost of business is reduced. IMF’s strong preconditions are root cause of our economic difficulties that can only be countered by increasing our exports. Our main reliance is on overseas remittances. FPCCI must review its last year’s performance and see where they faulted and why they failed. Nevertheless FPCCI has to work hard and come up-to the expectations of traders promises made must be fulfilled. Following measures shall help to overcome some of the difficulties.
a. There is immediate need to strengthen relationship between businessmen and corporate sector.
b. Most important issue is of fake registration of associations mainly to increase the vote bank. For that FPCCI must establish a monitoring cell that should visit each and every association registered with ministry of commerce for checking their credentials, and this should be done secretly and data compiled.
c. There is need to establish a small think tank of business entrepreneurs with rich experience to guide and assist government to achieve goals and objectives of business community
d. Standing Committees can play very important role between traders and FPCCI. Over the years they have contributed nothing towards businesses except building their own PR. Their concentration is focussed on picture session with VIP’s and presentation of shields and finally its publication in the newspapers. Presently Standing Committees selection is based on personal liking, friendship, known contact, or recommended by some VIP or having some link with VIP or related to members, it should be merit based. Number of Standing Committees which run over 150 is simply shocking, with such large number of committees without any contribution is wastage of resources of FPCCI and waste of time.
e. There is urgent need to cut down the number of standing committees to bear minimum and these committees should be restricted to trade activities only. Emphasis be laid on quality and not quantity
f. President FPCCI should hold Quarterly meetings in each province and open kutchery be held to meet traders to know their problems.
g. Shortage of gas has created crisis like situation in the country. CNG stations are facing starvation it must be given top priority and FPCCI should rescue them
h. Rationalisation of Achievement Award, should be given on merit only without collecting any renumeration
i. Research side of FPCCI is very weak needs competent and highly qualified persons with proper team fully equipped with world trade knowledge and latest trends
j. It is good to see that KCCI over the years has done excellent job and has looked after the business community well and proper. BMP enjoys good rapport with KCCI and are on one page can do wonders as Karachi is revenue generator of Pakistan, more corroboration shall be of great advantage for FPCCI
k. BMP main focus should be on federal budget and FPCCI should form a team and prepare comprehensible workable proposals for the government how to boost trade industry when IMF is imposing tough restrictions and opposition is not cooperating with the government. We have to keep aside our personal business interests to safeguard future of our children and well being of the country. Not the least Micro Soft co- finder Bill Gate said that virus could still have impact into 2022 and the nation” won’t be closer” to normal until the end of next summer, this warning should be taken seriously as his previous predictions were very accurate and business community should prepare themselves mentally that their difficulties are not yet over but are likely to extend further beyond 2021.
l. FPCCI should prepare case for Rationalisation of Taxes instead Readjustment in taxes. Golden principle “Less Tax-Less evasion”. Burdening with more tax on existing tax payers results in temporary gain to government but in long run it is counterproductive
m. FPCCI reservations on CPEC must be discussed and permanent solution sought

President FPCCI Naseer Hyatt Magoo is energetic person and is fully aware about the issues and problems being faced by the business community should suggest prime minister to appoint one special assistant on trade industry nominated by FPCCI for round the clock liaison and revamp FPCCI in all respects. Lastly FPCCI must plan to have vibrant media cell headed by professional to meet present day requirements and take out monthly Newsletter to reflect the trade activities taking place in Pakistan with focussed research as per practice in renowned global trade bodies