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KARACHI: For the first few minutes of his talk at the IPO Summit 2024, Mian Muhammad Mansha sounded like a businessman either admitting defeat to a system of inefficiency and redtape or someone who has lost hope in Pakistan’s economy.

That was not the case.

The business magnate, arguably one of Pakistan’s most successful entrepreneurs and who has seen a countless number of administrations change seats, came down hard on what he called an “inefficient government where around two-thirds of the employees have no work”.

“The general impression is that people in Pakistan don’t pay taxes,” said Mansha, who addressed the ‘Business growth and shareholder value creation by leveraging the capital’ session at the IPO Summit 2024 in Karachi on Saturday.

“Pakistan’s problem is simple: the amount of leakage in government organisations is high. Read (former State Bank governor) Shahid Kardar’s article.”

Mansha, chairman at MCB Bank, one of Pakistan’s largest, said everyone in Islamabad is “sitting on something”, referring to proposals aimed at progress, but which have fallen victim to bureaucratic redtape and general inefficiencies in the capital.

Mansha did not talk much about Initial Public Offerings, arguing that there were “fundamental changes” that needed to be made before trying to lure companies towards PSX listings.

“Look at some of the government entities. All they do is subsidise one another. I have several companies listed at the PSX. I am more inclined at taking them private than taking anymore public,” argued Mansha.

“There was a lot of talk on Pakistan’s chances at default and how we needed to learn from Sri Lanka’s example. I told the government then – ‘Sri Lanka has laws’. We don’t.

“Sri Lanka is bouncing back even after defaulting because it has laws. Its downfall was because of Covid and lack of tourism.”

Mansha advocated smaller governments, efficiency in state entities and quicker decision making.

“There are incredible things happening in the world. In Pakistan, a city like Gwadar is not linked directly to the highway. DISCOs are eating so much of our money. We need to fix the fundamentals.

“The IPOs will happen,” added Mansha as Akif Saeed, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), listened via online link.

As Mansha approached the end of his talk, he left the audience smiling with a ‘bitter-sweet resonation’.

“Let’s move back to the 1960s laws,” said Mansha as he advocated a ‘simpler time’ when things got done.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Bilal Memon

Bilal Memon is the Head of Digital Content at Business Recorder. His Twitter handle is @bilalahmadmemon

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