Out-of-the-box solutions


By the government, above all

The business community is quite something. Its resilience and ingenuity is a force of change like no other. It was perhaps a belief in their proactivity that prompted the president to urge them to seek “out of the box” solutions to their problems.

A good step, as it is always good to have the stakeholders on board and seek their advice on all issues. But don’t expect too much there. For the business community can show a bit of ingenuity here and a bit of shrewdness there when looking for new markets or trying to develop new products. But on the larger issues, which determine the space the businesses operate in, it all really boils down to the government. Consider: more than a few textile businesses, successful ones at that, have closed shop and shifted their manufacturing units to Bangladesh. Why? What does Bangladesh offer? How can it compete with, nay be better than, cotton-growing Pakistan? Because the Bangladesh government can provide a lot of uninterrupted power and that the country has favourable trade agreements with many other countries. Out-of-the-box thinking or not, the business community does not have a foreign service or a power ministry. How does one survive in this day and age, with a set of limitations that would have been crippling even in less competitive times?

And then there is the law and order problem. Though some (a small minority) within the business community have been able to circumvent the power crisis by installing power units of their own. Analogous to this on the law and order front would be private police forces?

The government needs to own up to the problems of the day and offer effective solutions the way governments are supposed to. The business community, despite the odds, has been able to push the exports up to a record level. They have been able to, just to give one example, expand the export of rice by six times in not too long a period of time. Give them an inkling, a whiff, of an enabling environment and they will seize it and turn it around. The brunt of the responsibility, however, lies with governments.