PSBF – Strengthening trade relations between Pakistan, Sri Lanka


AN INTERVIEW WITH TAREK M. KHAN, PRESIDENT PAKISTAN-SRI LANKA BUSINESS FORUM


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What is the background of the establishment of PSBFf? The establishment of PSBF in 2008 was based on the primary objective to improve trade with Sri Lanka.

Since, Sri Lanka is our brotherly country; we wish to further strengthen this relationship by giving each other a better opportunity for mutual benefit.

Our key objectives are:

— Encourage Bilateral Trade: This is the foremost and most important for all countries to grow together and improve their lifestyle through economic development.

— Infrastructural Development: Pakistan has a lot of opportunity to participate in the infrastructural development of Sri Lanka.

PSBF would like to provide opportunity to town planners, developers and contractors to utilise this Forum for an insight to the development projects in Sri Lanka.

There is a lot of business potential in real estate.

— Sourcing of Agriculture products: Efforts are being made to have a balanced trade in agriculture products.

Sri Lanka is a major producer of coconut, teak wood, tea etc and Pakistan is producer of rice, sugar, vegetables, fruits etc.

We are working on to provide export opportunity of agriculture products from Pakistan to Sri Lanka.

Likewise we are also co-ordinating with growers in Sri Lanka to reciprocate by providing high quality tea, teak wood, essential oils etc.

Although Pakistan is itself primarily an agricultural country, it is importing Sri Lankan agri-products and also exporting its agri produce.

Expansion of IT technology: We have big opportunities to develop into the IT services, in transport sector, public records, and we hope to share the expertise in developing computerised records of citizens and other public records.

There is a lot of new business growth in Knowledge Process outsourcing (KPO) and also Business Process Outsourcing (BPS).

The outsourcing of call centers by international, multinational and financial companies in Sri Lanka is a booming business.

— Development of Tourism: This is a very fast and rapidly progressing sector in Sri Lanka and provides great opportunities for hotel constructions, tourist resorts, and other tourism infrastructure development such as roads high end restaurants, theme parks.

— Business Mediation: In a nutshell, our role and objective of this forum is to provide the basic platform for business mediation.

We are also actively involved in dispute resolution for traders having problems in free trade activities.

The Forum is also engaged in providing legal advisory for information and processes of investment and establishment of companies in both countries.

How do you propose to meet these objectives?

We have developed this forum to ensure that the business council serves as a platform for expansion of trade between two countries.

We will work to identify new business opportunities, remove bottleneck issues to increase the volumes of business and trade.

Relevant authorities are consolidated on a platform to liaison with the concerned and important people from both ends.

Additionally, we will co-ordinate closely with both governments especially those which are directly related with trade for quicker and effective resolutions to any issues and problems.

Who are the current members of the council?

Majority of the members are businessmen who are keen to invest in Sri Lanka and also we are working feverously to add more quality members so our trade activities can start to flourish quickly.

The members are being added on a continuous pace to diversify our trade portfolio to the maximum.

We also assist the local business community in identifying sectors of businesses which can be tapped and provide full support in meeting the appropriate people of mutual interest from Sri Lanka.

How the trade has with Sri Lanka improved and what do you see in the future?

The trade with Sri Lanka is tilted towards in favour of Pakistan.

Trade balance between two countries has grown from USD 94million to USD 342million.

Sri Lanka’s deficit currently is USD 221million in 2010.

The Forum wants to reduce this trade imbalance for closer ties.

Sri Lanka can learn from the local business community in the field of agriculture, real estate, road development etc and can share their expertise.

Has there been improvement in trade relationship between Sri Lanka and Pakistan?

The trade imbalance is in favour of Pakistan and Sri Lanka stands at is working with us to improve this imbalance to right proportions.

Since the past few years the two countries have expressed high ambitions for closer ties and we will work to make this a reality.

Which agricultural products you are focusing on exporting? (Farm to market opportunity)

There are many products such as rice, vegetables, fruits, meat etc.

Due to lack of storage facilities, we are told that more than approximate 30% of the agricultural produce is wasted.

With this window of export, we hope to reduce this wastage by directly exporting from farm to market.

Both countries can create additional demand and increase exports.

Major hindrance to increase in export from Sri Lanka is illegal import of Copra oil into Pakistan from other countries.

Hence, Sri Lanka is loosing this market and the Forum is acting to protect the market share of Sri Lanka which has dropped by 45%

What other products you think can be exported to Sri Lanka?

With the development going in Sri Lanka, cement is a major commodity that has been added in trade.

Automobile is another sector that can be explored.

We are open for all types and anyone aspiring to become a part of trade with Sri Lanka, we are there to develop the same.

Other major items of trade are Sugar, energy, sectors that are untapped.

Are there any other sectors which can improve bilateral products?

With the ever growing demand for talented, educated and technical people, there is a lot of potential in education institutions at all levels starting from schools, colleges, universities and technical institutes.

We are looking for entrepreneurs who can assist in development of IT training facilities in Sri Lanka.

Although Sri Lanka has an excellent literacy rate, the higher education facilities still has opportunities which can be mutually shared.

Education is another area where teachers from Sri Lanka can be called.

Earlier missionary schools in Pakistan had Sri Lankan teachers and principals.

This practice can be increased again.

Post schooling institutes can be opened jointly in both countries and share the syllabus for development of co-ordinated education standards

Any goals for the forum?

We want to make a change….

To bring with us an influx of Pakistani business community to invest in Sri Lanka and utilise the opportunity to expand, prosper and achieve new heights of success with supporting Sri Lanka to reduce the trade deficit for mutual benefit.

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