Pak govt, private sector needs to develop winning attitude: Argentine Ambassador

An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on Jan 21, 2014.

Islamabad – Pakistan’s government and private-sector need to develop a winning attitude and be confident with their decision making, Ambassador of Argentina in Pakistan, Rodolfo J. Martin-Saravia said.

Saravia, who is also the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Islamabad, was speaking to The Express Tribune in an exclusive interview.

“Both for national and provincial governments, what is lacking is the final decision,” the Ambassador said. “They are very much open to dialogue and discussions, but when the right moment to take the decision comes, then every thing evaporates.”

Saravia said the hesitation in decision making in Pakistan seems to seep beyond the governments to the private sector as well, and it has been felt by representatives of most foreign countries and foreign companies.

He said this indecisiveness is not related to corruption but could be a crisis of confidence or a matter of over-thinking the solution.

“It is like a formula 1 racer who knows that if he speeds he can win, but he is afraid of it and then he always comes second or third,” the Ambassador said. “It is a pity because it is a great country and a great people, but they need the last, final push to say, ‘let’s go for the win. I want to be on the top of the podium, not to the second or third’.”

Saravia, who has been serving as Argentina’s envoy in Pakistan since 2004, said the “most important thing” he has witnessed in the country during the past decade is the 2013 general elections, which allowed one civilian government to hand over power democratically to another.

He said the new government faces three issues that have to be resolved: energy crisis, the law and order situation, and insurgents. “At least one of the issues must be resolved in the short term,” he said.

Average trade volume between the two countries is around USD 100-200 million, the Ambassador said, with the trade balance being in Argentina’s favour.

Successful joint ventures include BF Biosciences Limited — Pakistan’s first biopharmaceutical production facility — in Lahore which is a commercial partnership between Ferozesons Laboratories and Argentina’s Bago Group.

Argentina is a world leader in the Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) sector and Argentine companies will be participating in government-run public transport projects to provide necessary elements for CNG, such as compressors and transportation of gas, the envoy said.

Saravia said Pakistan needs to reduce local industry’s dependence on imports and promote its exports to strengthen its economy.

“Pakistan needs to diversify its products and exports, as to give it more chances to increase trade,” he said. “You have to expand the spectrum of what you can export, so other countries could look at opportunities of importing more.”

He said there are opportunities for increase in bilateral trade: For example, Argentina exports tea to Kenya and Pakistan buys tea mostly from Kenya. Pakistan could directly buy tea from Argentina which might be a cheaper option, the Ambassador said.

Argentina was the first Latin American country to recognise Pakistan and the bilateral relations between the two countries go back 63 years.

“Argentina and Pakistan have always been very much close and have been supporting each other on many international issues,” Saravia said. The international issues Argentina and Pakistan stand together on include opposition towards an increase in the permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Ambassador Saravia has also been working improve the medical facilities at the Polyclinic Hospital in the capital, by building an extension for the hospital.

The extension would utilize a part of the Argentina Park, which is located south of the hospital. The park was donated to Argentina in 1973 by then-President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to acknowledge and appreciate Argentina’s role in the United Nations in bringing about a ceasefire between India and Pakistan in the ’71 war.

“We are trying to convince the government to use one-thirds of the park to build a new building and pavilion of the Polyclinic Hospital that would be called the Argentina Pavilion, which will have 1,100 new beds,” the Ambassador said.

The Capital Development Authority has already given its approval, Saravia said. The final straw seems to be a payment of around Rs52 million which has to be sanctioned by the Planning Commission. Saravia said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif can also pass an order to directly allocate the land to the hospital.

“I have been trying for the last four years, I hope this government takes the final decision and we will see the building in a few years,” he said.

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