The 7th Edition of LEADERS IN ISLAMABAD BUSINESS SUMMIT (LIIBS) kicked off with a full house at a local hotel in Islamabad.  More than 15 global speakers and 1000+ delegates were present at the event to unlock growth opportunities and collaborate for mutual benefit and advancement.

The 7th Edition of LIIBS is jointly hosted by Nutshell Group and Unity Foods Limited, in collaboration with OICCI (Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry), with Faysal Bank Limited as the Platinum partner, and InfraZamin Pakistan as the strategic partner. The theme of the event this year is ‘Collaborating for Growth’.

Welcoming the honorable public sector leadership, global leaders, and delegates to the 7th Edition of LIIBS, Muhamad Azfar Ahsan, Pakistan’s Former Minister for Investment, reinforced the shared vision of Unity Foods Limited and Nutshell Group, for a successful, self-sufficient, and sustainable Pakistan. Azfar emphasized the need for collaboration between the Private, Public, and Military sectors. “Pakistan is at a crossroads, but I am optimistic that the finance team under the dynamic leadership of Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb will collaborate and do the needful. To progress as a country, we need competent teams in four main stakeholder domains: political government, bureaucracy, business leadership, and business community.”

In his welcome address, Lt. Gen. Omar Mahmood Hayat (Rtd), Chairman of Unity Foods Limited, while expressing his eagerness to engage in more collaborative efforts for the benefit of Pakistan’s national interests, stated, “Given the current environment, if there was ever a time for a collaborative approach, specifically for businesses in Pakistan, that time is now. It is imperative to encourage participation in public-private partnerships to address industry challenges, advocate for regulatory reforms, and promote sustainable development initiatives.”

Focusing on the futuristic approach to strengthen the infrastructure of Pakistan, and the proven success of regional corporations across the globe, H.E. Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, Chairman, Senate of Pakistan, said, “Ending differences between political powers is imperative. Inflation is at its highest level in the country’s history. Due to a decline in investment in Pakistan, there is a fall in per capita income. Pakistan is facing numerous environmental issues, including floods, rainfall, rising temperatures, & others. We possess abundant resources and talent, but optimizing our potential requires a concerted effort marked by collaboration at all levels – within government, across industries, with public and private sector working together, and with our regional and global partners.”

Prof. Ahsan Iqbal, Federal Minister for Planning, Development & Special Initiatives, graced the event and in a conversation titled, The BIG Picture, he said, “We are committed to making Pakistan stand as an honorable country. Let us stop playing politics for the next few years and become an economic nation. The key to success is to compete and collaborate simultaneously. When it comes to market share, we should compete but when it comes to industry share, we should collaborate, with this strategy we can be on a growth trajectory within the next 2 years.”

Senator Muhammad Aurangzeb, Federal Minister for Finance & Revenue, having recently returned from Washington after deliberations with the IMF, focused on the ‘need to do’ on an immediate basis. Commenting on the proactive role of government he said, “Agriculture and IT exports are the two sectors that can be the driver of growth for Pakistan’s economy. It is up to us as a country to come up with investable, bankable projects. There has been a 33.6% increase in agricultural loans between July and February of the current fiscal year. The government aims at alleviating inflation and providing relief to the weaker segments of society. Efforts are being made to control inflation and provide relief to the weaker segments of society. FBR tax collection increased by 30.2%, exceeding the target of PKR 6,707 billion. Ministry of Finance, FBR, and the Ministry of Law are taking steps to increase collaboration in revenue collection.”

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Session Chairman Sardar Awais Ahmad Khan Leghari, Federal Minister for Energy (Power Division), spoke on the historical and present paradigms of the power sector in Pakistan. Commenting on the required steps to be taken he said, “The power sector in Pakistan is facing numerous challenges, it is unfeasible to hinder growth because certain items require subsidies to cater to all socioeconomic classes. The government must demonstrate the courage to embrace its social responsibility while fostering industrial growth. This needs to find a balance between supporting industry development and ensuring essential items remain affordable for all segments of society.”
Shaza Fatima Khwaja, Minister of State for IT & Telecom, outlined the bigger picture that Pakistan needs to look at. “The Government’s vision is to digitize Pakistan in three verticals. Governance, economy, and society overall. We will be inviting tech experts from Pakistan and from around the world to assist us and ensure transparency, ease of doing business, streamlined governance which will result in sustainable growth. By combining resources, expertise, & perspectives, private & govt sector collaborations can leverage the strengths of both sectors to address the complex challenges & opportunities of our rapidly evolving digital landscape.”

Dr. Ishrat Husain, N.I, H.I, Author, Economist, former Federal Minister & Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, reiterated the urgency to collaborate for long-term national goals, he said, “Pakistan needs broad-based & sustainable development which should not benefit only a few, while the rest of the population is left behind. Pakistan should have a common agreed goal around a shared mandate. The evidence from developing countries for the past 70 years has concluded that in addition to Physical Capital, Human Capital, and Natural Capital, two more types of capital are equally important for achieving growth – Social Capital and Intellectual Capital.”

Lasha Tabidze, Global Chief Digital Officer, VEON, highlighting the role of technology in collaborative ventures, shared, “Pakistan will soon be a part of the digital future. Our focus is on the rural and suburban areas of Pakistan. JazzCash aims to lower the financial divide by empowering women and the young population of Pakistan. With 30% of total JazzCash wallet customers being women, 23,000 registered women merchants, and 6000 women agents working in the network of cash digitalization, the scope is unlimited.”

Layth Al Falaki, Chief Executive Officer, GuarantCo Limited, focused on the changing landscape of Africa through collaborative ventures with inbuilt financing of infrastructure. Showcasing it as an ideal pilot study, he stated, “We have been working in Pakistan for 10 years and have invested in 20 projects. Investment has been made in alternative energy and digital sectors. Asian countries are facing a shortage of USD 450 billion annually in infrastructure and USD 900 billion annually in the social sector. If someone wants to bring foreign investment into Pakistan, make it easier for the people to come and go from the country.”

Hatem Bamatraf, President & CEO, PTCL Group shared his experiences and insights into developments that best relate to the theme of the conference. He focused on digitization for Pakistan and the resulting connectivity as an expedited route to development. An empowered telecommunication infrastructure, he stated, is pivotal to progress, as it must be the central force for all other industries. “Pakistan can benefit from the industrial revolution, being the 5th most populous country in the world, and with 60% of its population being youth, it can leverage this demographic dividend. Being born in the digital age gives Pakistani youth a big advantage and since a significant portion speaks English, it gives them an edge.”
The pre-lunch session concluded with a thought-provoking dialogue, Climate & Infrastructure, moderated by Sajjeed Aslam, Partner, Spectreco LLC, USA. The panelists, Boo Hock KHOO, Chairman, InfraZamin Board; Philip Skinner, Head of Middle East, North Africa & Pakistan, GuarantCo and Origination Lead for Nature, Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG); Karen Tsand-Hounsell, Head, Business Development, InfraCo, Asia Development Pte. Ltd.; Emilio Cattaneo, Head of Technical Assistance, PIDG; and Maheen Rahman, Chief Executive Officer, InfraZamin Pakistan, exchanged views on strategies for a sustainable and secure future for the generations to come.

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Expressing concern for sustainable and long-lasting infrastructure, Boo Hock said, “Financing is available, but why it fails to show up in a company or project is because of lack of confidence. Money inflow is principally based on confidence.”

Taking his thoughts forward, Philip added, “GuarantCo aims to mobilize the local currency market in Pakistan. We focus on mobilizing domestic sources of capital like bond markets or bank markets by using our guarantee as a form of credit enhancement to move capital into projects.”

Asserting the need for collaborative efforts for Pakistan’s stability, Maheen said, “The private sector is indeed a key player responsible for driving project development and propelling the country forward. We must break away from perpetual reliance on fiscal space. Pakistan’s total private sector lending is 17% of GDP, while countries like India & Bangladesh are in the range of 50-60%. More lending into the system in Pakistan is essential on the back of strong bankable projects.”

Adding to the discussion, Karen said, “Infrastructure is a great enabler, and the crux of the issue is underinvestment, sovereign balance sheets are not big enough, so we need to bring in private sector capital. We are committed to advancing infrastructure development, fostering investor confidence for investments in the sector.”

Emilio assured Pakistani stakeholders of the intent to collaborate and said, “Our technical business offering is fundamental and catalytic in ensuring that the projects are structured successfully, particularly in the context of ensuring that they have a positive climate impact and are constructed in a resilient and sustainable way.”

The third session on Emerging Leadership Issues comprised of addresses by Praveen Thakur, Vice President Asia, Teradata, and Lucia Real Martin, GAICD, Global Executive Director, ACCA. They deliberated over the role of AI and Big Data in collaborative ventures and about the preparedness of organizations using modern technology for sustainability and success.
The fourth session of the conference titled, Pakistan’s Power Sector: The Way Forward, comprised an address, and a panel discussion featuring industry leaders: Mohammad Ali, Caretaker Federal Minister for Energy, Power & Petroleum (2023-24); Syed Moonis Abdullah Alvi, Chief Executive Officer, K-Electric; Ruhail Muhammad, Chief Executive Officer, Lucky Electric Power Company; and Ayla Majid, ACCA’s Global Deputy President and Founder & CEO, Planetive. It was moderated by Sajjeed Aslam, Partner, Spectreco LLC, USA.
Sajjeed opened the discussion with an emphasis on linking the power sector to economic development. Ali brought his experience of the public sector and private industry with profound insights into a collaborative framework. He commented, “Nearly half of Pakistan’s electricity generation capacity is under government control, covering both hydroelectric and nuclear power plants. These sources play an important part in ensuring energy security, and present challenges in terms of efficiency and cost-effectiveness.”
Moonis, emphasizing the need to strengthen the power sector through privatization, said, “All distribution companies to be privatized need to be given some targets in terms of their actual cost today and the future. They must then perform based on those benchmarks, with accountability, so they continue to do better. Only then the circular debt be reduced.”
Elaborating on the same Ayla, added, “Access, affordability, and sustainable energy sources are three key principles regarding electricity. There is a need to increase the use of local fuels in the electricity sector. The cost of alternative energy resources has decreased. Solar energy is now 80% cheaper, while the cost of wind turbines on land has decreased by 50%. The price of electricity batteries is also decreasing.”
Adding to the conversation, Ruhail said, “For future investments in transmission two things are important, continuity of policies, and rules of the game should be streamlined for transparency. The private sector should also collaborate with the government in this regard.”
Exploring ‘The Digital Future’ was the topic for the concluding session of the day, highlighting the role of technology in a digitally enabled future.  Mujeeb Zahur, Managing Director, S&P Global Pakistan, moderated the session, which comprised esteemed panelists including, Asif Peer, CEO & Managing Director, Systems Limited; Muhammad Hamayun Sajjad, Chief Executive Officer, Mashreq Pakistan; Abdul Haseeb, Managing Director, TMC Private Limited; Ali Naseer, Chief Data & Strategy Officer, Jazz; and Nadeem A. Malik, Secretary General, Pakistan Software Houses Association. The impact of technology and the changing modalities for global competition were deliberated upon.
Asif stated, “In Pakistan, we need to come up with more business ideas as we have a diverse customer base and there is a strong need to not just optimize but transform holistically and bring forward personalized solutions with a progressive mindset.” Hamayun commenting on the need for financial inclusion through digitization said, “In Pakistan, women’s workforce participation was 13% in 2010, now it is close to 25% and this is mainly because now women can also work from home. Whereas 24% of the world population is still excluded from financial inclusion and there is a massive push from World Bank to include these 1.7 billion people in the fold.”
Ali, emphasizing the need to strengthen the telecommunications sector, said, “Even though we are excited about the digital future, we still really like doing things the old-fashioned way in our everyday lives. We find comfort in sticking to what we know, even if it is not the latest and greatest. “We continue to hope and aspire for a digital future because in our daily life, we are very much content without analog processes and systems.”
Reinforcing the need to be digitally ahead, Abdul Haseeb said, “Rather than a particular type of technology, our focus should be on the ability to learn new skills and to be able to develop new talent around those skills should be our focus as technology will keep on evolving.”
Summing up the discussion, Nadeem outlined the need for the industry to work with technology across the board. He said, “The world is in the midst of a fast-evolving digital economy. In Pakistan, with a strong youth bulge and growing tech space, we have a potential green field where we can truly thrive in the global digital economy.”
The inaugural day of LIIBS 2024 concluded on a motivational note, leaving participants enthusiastic to continue their learning journey the following day. The sessions were marked by the exchange of new ideas, the formation of partnerships, and the exploration of avenues for creativity, and innovation.

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