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Current Business Environment of Pakistan: Opportunities and Challenges

The 7th Annual Business Research Conference on Managing Business in Pakistan "Current Business Environment of Pakistan: Opportunities and Challenges” was held on the 26th and 27th of April at the main campus of the Lahore School of Economics.

Dr. Shahid Amjad Chaudhry, the Rector Lahore School of Economics, inaugurated the conference by giving an overview of the current macroeconomic situation of Pakistan. He highlighted the various challenges that the current government had been facing mainly the current balance of payment crisis. He attributed serious fiscal issues related to taxes, the inelasticity of exports, the surge in imports and misplaced trade policy including previously negotiated Pak-China FTA as key factors that had eroded the growth pace of the Pakistani economy. Dr. Shahid Amjad aptly pointed out that strict fiscal adjustments were being made by the incumbent government. These aspects were evident from the restoration of all taxes on mobile phone top-ups. Similarly, both provincial and federal governments were gearing to collect taxes from the agriculturists in order to bolster revenue collection. In this backdrop, he further asserted that it had become imperative to negotiate an optimal deal with the IMF so that the loan adjustments with the international development banks could galvanize the current structural reforms of the present government in the long term.

The first session of the first day was chaired by Mohammad Shoaib, CEO of Al Meezan Investment Management Limited. Mr. Shoaib gave an overview of the capital markets and discussed the future outlook for investors. He explained how capital markets could play a crucial role in mobilizing domestic and foreign investments particularly in the present political and economic milieu. Mr. Raza Jafri focused on the performance of the present government and highlighted that current downturn could bring potential gains for the current investors as they could make investments at lower prices for higher future gains. At the end of the session, Mr. Aquil Raza Khoja, MD of Punjab Pension Fund, highlighted the opportunities and challenges faced by retirement saving funds due to recent macroeconomic changes. Ms. Samiya Mukhtar Corporate Governance Specialist at the Government of Punjab provided an overview of different asset classes over the last ten years and gave a future outlook based on recent economic developments.

The chair of the second session, Mr. Shahzad Saleem, Chief Operating Officer at PACRA briefed the audience on economic growth patterns of Pakistan in comparison with China and India. He gave pertinent insights for the volatile growth of the Pakistani economy. Dr. Syed Kumail Abbas Rizvi, Professor of Finance at the Lahore School of Economics shed light upon the exchange rate regimes of Pakistan. He emphasized that policy makers needed to seriously comprehend the pros and cons of free floating exchange rates especially; in the context of a developing economy like Pakistan. Finally, Mr. Waqas Munir, Microfinance Specialist and Mr. Omair Zeeshan, Head of Marketing at FINCA Microfinance Bank highlighted the contribution of Microfinance bank in boosting financial inclusion in Pakistan and how these banks were disrupting the traditional banking sector with the help of technology.

The last session of the first day assessed the impact of new regulatory regimes regarding the ease of doing business and taxation in Pakistan. This session was chaired by Mr. Naeem Akhtar Sheikh, FCA, Senior Partner in UHY Hassan Naeem & Co. Chartered Accountants. The first speaker of the last session, Mr. Muhammad Safdar, discussed the essentials of the recent Companies Act 2017 to showcase the initiatives that could facilitate the ease of doing business in Pakistan. Mr. Aamir Rasheed claimed that the paramount objective of a tax policy should be the encouragement of more business investment in the economy. For this purpose, the tax bureaucracy should treat business community as partners rather than soft targets. Dr. Arshad Hassan, Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Professor at Lahore School of Economics talked about the pertinent determinants of corporate sustainability reporting decisions in the business environment of Pakistan. The results of this research indicated that leading corporate sustainability reporting firms in Pakistan had larger and gender diverse boards, more block holdings, a higher degree of institutional and foreign ownership. Mr. Asad Feroze concluded the first day of the conference by appraising the current regulatory environment including past amnesty schemes. 

The first day of the conference was concluded with the policy recommendation that future amnesty schemes should be offered as per the specific industrial and trade targets to bolster economic gains.

The second day of the conference was aimed to confer more specific business challenges with respect to the ease of doing business in Pakistan, brand management, supply chain management, institutional and cultural constraints of entrepreneurship; and more importantly the wellbeing of employees at workplace in Pakistan. The second day of the conference was comprised of three sessions. The commencing session was chaired by Dr. Aamir Khan, Associate Professor at the Lahore School of Economics. Amber Sajjad an MPhil graduate of the Lahore School of Economics along with Professor Dr. Sohail Zafar Dean of Faculty of Business Administration, Lahore School of Economics presented the first paper of the session. Ms. Amber Sajjad discussed about how brand proliferation confused the consumers and resulted in negative post purchase behavior. She concluded that confusion in the buying decision process had a significant indirect negative effect on brand image and brand love. Mr. Jami Moiz from the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) Karachi, compared the dealer-retailer network with direct to consumer channel using the case study of the leading electronics brand of Pakistan.

The findings of this study emphasized the important role played by dealer-retailers in the consumer electronic goods industry in the context of emerging markets. He also explored the changing landscape of contemporary distribution channels and showed that consumer were shifting towards the adoption of multi-channel network of distribution including direct to consumer channels of product distribution. The second session of the day explored at the institutions and entrepreneurship in Pakistan. Ms. Mehak Sajjad, from the Lahore School of Economics presented her research paper titled “A Tale of Female Entrepreneurial Intentions in an Urban Setting: The Fire of Passion and the Grace of Networking.” She analyzed the impact of entrepreneurial passion, entrepreneurial self-efficacy and social networking for modern women residing in the urban setting. Her research concluded a strong and significant impact of entrepreneurial passion and social networking upon entrepreneurial intentions of women. Dr. Sobia Bano also talked about the women entrepreneurship in Pakistan. Dr. Sobia Bano is working as Assistant Professor at the Department of Business Administration at Nur International University. She discussed the motivational factors of women that encouraged them to step in an entrepreneurial venture. The last session of the conference was chaired by Dr. Hamid Hassan, Director at the National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences (FAST-NU). Ms. Amina Talat, PhD candidate at the Lahore School of Economics had explicated the relevance of team sensemaking as an underlying mechanism for the relationships of social environment factors with team creativity. She recommended that cognitive diversity of team and team autonomy could positively contribute to team creativity if the team members indulged in team sensemaking. Ms. Mehwish Jawaad from the Lahore School of Economics presented the paper about the human resource practices in the telecom sector of Pakistan.

The findings of her research implied that telecom companies should pay extra attention to human resources practices that contributed positively towards the performance of employees. Ms. Tania Hassan from the Lahore School of Economics focused on how healthy workplace environments aided the employee to raise their satisfaction level and efficiency. These results implied that healthy working conditions contributed positively to efficiency of employees and therefore organizations should allocate resources for providing healthy infrastructure for increased employee productivity. The last presenter of the last day was Mr. Ali Taimur Baig from the Lahore School of Economics who examined the formation of the dark side of organizational citizenship behavior in the insurance sector of Pakistan. Mr. Ali Taimur noted that job demands and psychological distress played crucial roles in the development of compulsory citizenship behavior. Hence, it became imperative for managers to foster an organizational environment that could strengthen relationships among coworkers as it could lessen undesirable impact of job demands.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 5/08/2019 10:19:00 AM,

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