Boycott of western products sparks surge in local alternatives
A socially driven movement to boycott western products in protest against their alleged support for Israeli atrocities in Gaza has dealt a serious blow to businesses of the world’s renowned brands in Pakistan. Simultaneously, it has boosted prospects for local alternatives, which are still struggling to fill the gap due to their own loopholes, a study and industrialists said.
“This also emerges as an opportunity for local companies, which have seen sudden jumps in their sales as an alternative to multinational products,” said Kashif Hafeez of Pulse Consultant, a nationwide social research organisation that recently carried out the study.
“The study, in fact, helps our local companies capitalise on the opportunity and fill the gaps where they are lacking. They are as good in quality as the multinationals, but they face serious challenges of distribution, marketing, and availability of their products.”
The fresh data from the study, which asked hundreds of people across Pakistan about their reaction to the recent call to boycott western products in protest after Israel started bombing civilians following the Oct 7 attacks, killing thousands of civilians, with more than half of them being children. In response, close to 80 per cent of consumers agreed with the motive of the campaign and supported the boycott call, while almost 70pc have practically started participating in the campaign, quitting the use of several multinational and western brands.
There are some products, according to Mr Hafeez, where local brands aren’t available and due to their non-production at the domestic level nothing has changed in their sales.
“Like we lack good brands of toothpaste and some other FMCGs [fast-moving consumer goods],” he said. “But at the same time, there are dozens of products where our brands are much higher in quality and they already pose tough competition to multinational brands. Tea is one thing where we are much better in local brands compared to multinationals. Another interesting phenomenon, we have witnessed this time, is that boycott call is more zealously followed by the upper social class, which usually consumes multinational brands. This is another factor that has dented multinationals’ businesses.”
According to the study, conducted in 12 major cities of Pakistan, eight out of 10 respondents were in favour of boycotting the multinational and western brands and seven out of 10 claimed they had already started that practice.
“Interestingly, the sentiments to boycott are relatively high among females, who are seen as decision-makers for household brands, compared to males,” says the study, conducted among individuals aged 16 to 55 years.
Among female responders, 78pc not only agreed with the boycott call but also claimed to have actively participated in the campaign, compared to 66pc of male respondents.
The most robust and effective boycott reaction was observed against carbonated soft drinks, followed by confectionary items, packaged dairy products, soaps, shampoos, edible items, cooking oil, toothpaste, and others.
However, experts disagree with the argument presented by boycott supporters that using local products would benefit the economy. They argue that local products generally lack quality due to the absence of certification and standards regimes in production.
Dr Adil Nakhoda, an economist and associate professor at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), recently speaking to Dawn.com highlighted that Pakistan already has import restrictions in place that should encourage local producers. But, such restrictions have often failed to create local alternatives to meet the needs of the population.
However, those, who are doing business on the ground, are witnessing the windfall. When asked about the impact of the boycott on local businesses, Zubair Motiwala, a prominent industrialist and chief of the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP), called it “phenomenal and extraordinary.”
“Our manufacturers are witnessing a phenomenal increase in their businesses [due to the boycott],” he said. “There are indeed challenges, but the impact is so huge and sudden that many weren’t prepared for it and lack a few things to handle it. But there’s an opportunity hidden in all these phenomena. We need to make it sustainable. For that, we have to learn from such events, fill gaps, and move towards local manufacturing.”
Published in Dawn, alternatives 3rd, 202
EDITORIAL: Strangely, while the OICCI’s (Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s) latest BCI (Business Confidence Index) survey shows an overall year-on-year improvement in Mar-Apr, it’s still not something to write home about.
For, the nuanced picture of business sentiment during Wave 24, as it is called, shows confidence standing at negative 18 percent, marking a visible positive shift from negative 25 percent recorded earlier.
And it says a lot that sectors recording the largest increases still languish deep in red; like manufacturing at negative 10 percent (from negative 19 percent), services sector at negative 18 percent (from negative 26 percent) and retail and wholesale sector at negative 31 percent (from negative 35 percent).
The OICCI president attributes this “improvement”, since results are better than before, to “relatively stable macroeconomic indicators, favourable changes in the political and economic landscape, which was also supported by stability in FX rates, and a record performance at PSE (Pakistan Stock Exchange)”. That should suffice, according to the chamber, to make businesses anticipate further improvements in coming months.
While that would be welcome, no doubt, the report also says that more than three quarters of respondents expressed concern “that the current economic situation could adversely affect their businesses”.
That’s a far more realistic interpretation of prevailing conditions, as well as the results of the survey, than an over-optimistic estimation of the next couple of quarters. That’s because of the top three identified threats to smooth sailing — rising inflation, high taxation, PKR depreciation — not even one is going away anytime
soon. Inflation is on the rise once again, despite the recent small dip in food prices. Taxes will progressively increase as long as Pakistan remains dependent on IMF loans, which will be a very long time. And the rupee is finishing the year as the continent’s worst performing currency, with little chance of revenue inflows putting a floor under it.
Still the movement, even at snail’s pace, is in the right direction. That in itself speaks very well about the resilience of the top performing sectors as they slowly improve their positions.
The economy may have stopped haemorrhaging, but businesses are still handicapped by unaffordable, abnormal input costs because of high cost of utilities as well as magnified raw material import costs because of the collapsing rupee.
That simply prices most of them out of the international competitive market and puts serious question marks on their ability to keep functioning, much less remaining profitable.
It’s unfortunate that the understanding with the Fund rules out any government support for any sector. If anything, taxes will continue to rise and subsidies shrink as the process of painful structural reforms rolls on and ensures continued fiscal support from the lender of last resort.
That leaves sectors that drive the economy on their own as they face international headwinds like commodity super cycles and cut-throat price competition and also local constraints like the unfavourable economy, especially unbearable fixed costs.
It seems business leaders and economic managers alike will have to wait till OICCI’s next BCI survey to see if the trend holds. For now it is appreciated that they are making small advances towards regaining competitiveness and profitability.
DUBAI: French President Emmanuel Macron warned Saturday that Israel’s aim of eliminating the Palestinian group Hamas risked unleashing a decade of war.
“I think we’re at a point where the Israeli authorities are going to have to define their objective and desired end state more precisely,” Macron said at a press conference on the sidelines of the UN’s COP28 climate talks in Dubai.
During an unprecedented attack on October 7, Hamas fighters broke through Gaza’s militarised border into Israel, killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took around 240 Israelis and foreigners hostage, according to Israeli authorities.
Israel vowed to eliminate Hamas in response and unleashed an air and ground campaign that has killed more than 15,000 people, also mostly civilians, the Hamas authorities who run Gaza say.
“What is the total destruction of Hamas, and does anyone think it’s possible? If it is, the war will last 10 years,” Macron said on Saturday.
After the Israeli army resumed shelling the Gaza Strip on Friday following the collapse of a week-long truce, Macron spoke of the need for “stepped-up efforts to reach a lasting ceasefire” in the conflict.
Macron travelled to Doha on Saturday to meet with Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, whose government has been central to diplomatic efforts to end the conflict.
But his five-hour stopover in Doha came just after the departure of the Israeli negotiators, with Israel citing a “stalemate” in the talks.
Israel and Hamas blamed each other for the breakdown of the truce, which before it expired had enabled the release of 80 Israeli hostages in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners.
The Israeli army said it had carried out more than 400 strikes in Gaza since the collapse of the ceasefire, while Hamas announced “rocket barrages” against multiple Israeli cities and towns including Tel Aviv.
Macron had planned to make an extensive tour of the Middle East but instead held meetings about the conflict on the sidelines of UN climate talks.
Neither Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas attended the Dubai summit.
In October, Macron met with Netanyahu in Israel.
Analysts say Macron’s visits to Dubai and Doha illustrate the difficulty his government faces in finding a way to influence the conflict.
“France and Macron are not really finding their place in this crisis,” said Agnes Levallois, vice-president of the Institute for Mediterranean Middle East Research and Studies (IREMMO).
“The financial needs of the developing countries are way more than the unfulfilled $100 billion pledge,” he said in his address to the Global Stock Take (GST) event on means of implementation here.
He said even to fulfill less than half of their existing Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), the developing countries needed $6 trillion by 2030.
US pledges $3 billion to green climate fund at COP28
The Prime Minister pointed out that adaptation needs alone were $387 billion per year until 2030, whereas with respect to the current estimates for loss and damage, they were around $400 billion annually, which were expected to grow to $1 to 2 trillion by 2050. He urged that the outcomes of GST and the COP28 clearly highlight this enormous gap between the finance mobilized and the needs of developing countries.
The Prime Minister also called upon the developed countries to urgently rectify shortfalls and their financial commitments under the Paris agreement, unlocking scaled-up and improved financial support that would enable developing countries to contribute to bridging the implementation gaps in their mitigation and adaptation actions.
“We believe the outcomes of the GST are well timed to guide the critical discussion in 2024 on setting the post-2025 new collective quantified goals on finance commensurate with the needs of the developing countries,” he remarked
He also stressed that the GST should strengthen the effectiveness of the technology mechanism in scaling up the development and transfers of proven climate technologies and enables a better degree of capacity building for developing countries.
“The need for reform of the international financial architecture also requires focus,” he added.
Regarding the technology transfer, PM Kakar said, “We proposed to focus on key and high-emitting sectors with joint indicators of functioning solutions, time frames, and enabling conditions needed to put in place green technologies.”
On capacity building, he said the developing countries required support and greater coherence and coordination across the UN system.
“To attract the required private and public investment, developing countries must be provided capacity-building support to develop appropriate instruments and create pipelines of bankable projects for adaptation and mitigation,” he remarked.
He hoped that the discussions and deliberation here and throughout the COP could result in ambitious outcomes on the means of implementation that were equitable and responsive to the needs of developing countries.
He said, “We have all come here with one aim: ensuring that the planet remains liveable for our children and our children’s children.”
“Our assembly here recognizes the acuteness of challenges faced in the realm of climate extremes. The notion of implementation and support is a critical element of the Global Stock Take report,” he added.
The Prime Minister maintained that climate change was happening now; some were witnessing it on television screens, while others, like people in Pakistan, were witnessing it firsthand.
“The critical concern for developing countries like Pakistan is the recurring natural disasters and consequent adaptation needs in the impacted sectors of water, agriculture, urban resilience, natural capital, and human health,” he said.
QUETTA – Balochistan Caretaker Minister for Information Jan Achakzai here on Saturday said that Balochistan would be cleaned of illegal immigrants, eliminate smuggling activities, Hawala Hundi business and become the second Singapore of the region for investment. During a press conference, the provincial minister said Pakistan has repeatedly demanded from the Afghan government to handover the terrorists involved in terrorism in the country as no state can allow terrorist attacks on its people. The Afghan government is still playing a double game on the matter with Pakistan, Jan Achakzai said and added that no Afghan citizen would be allowed to enter Pakistan without a valid visa. He further said that the sit-in in Chaman has been hijacked by PTM. Jan said that Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) was taking action to eliminate terrorists in Balochistan, terrorists and facilitators would not be spared. Jan Achakzai further said that political contractors in Turbat never condemned the massacre of poor workers. The caretaker provincial minister said that terrorist attack in Bannu was carried out by a terrorist having citizen card of Afghanistan. Afghan people have become a security risk, so no one would be allowed to stay here without having valid visa, he added.
While speaking to reporters after the party meeting in Lahore, PML-N leaders Rana Sanaullah Khan and Ahsan Iqbal said that the party intends to implement the amendment in its spirits and wants to complete it by introducing further devolution of powers.
“The 18th Amendment is incomplete and PML-N will complete it because it was aimed to devolve powers from centre to masses. The powers have been devolved from the centre to the provinces. However, powers are not devolved from provinces to the grassroots,” Secretary General of PML-N Ahsan Iqbal told reporters. He also claimed that the plan is part of the party manifesto and PML-N wants to delegate powers to the local governments.
The development comes in the background of the Pakistan Peoples Party’s claim that the PML-N was siding with powers that be to rollback the 18th Amendment, which was passed by PPP and PML-N jointly in 2010 and which granted greater powers to the provinces in the federation of Pakistan. Sanaullah said that PML-N was not planning to roll back the amendment.
Daniyal Aziz was directed to submit response to the show-cause notice within seven days, he added. “Daniyal Aziz has been told to be cautious while giving such statement to the media,” he said. He highlighted the significance of adhering to the party guidelines and emphasised the need for internal discipline in the party.
Rana Sanaullah said that the PML-N’s first parliamentary board meeting was held on Saturday under the supervision of party Quaid and President in which Sargodha division’s candidates were called and interviewed by the board members. During the 7-hour long meeting, issues related to constituencies of Sargodha division were addressed and deliberated upon, he said. He added that party was trying to develop a consensus with all candidates and personal differences would be eradicated to make the party one unit.
PML-N Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal said that more than 100 candidates belonging to Sargodha, Bhakhar, Mianwali and Khushab districts were interviewed during the meeting. All candidates presented their eligibility, connection and loyalty with the party in front of the board members. The PML-N has started its election preparations vigorously by firstly developed its manifesto committee, he added.
He said that party was searching for suitable and prefect candidate for upcoming general election as strong, stable and elected government was vital for country’s development, adding that the PML-N had all the abilities to transform the country’s infrastructure and revive the economy. “We are trying to restart the development journey under the experienced leaderships of PML-N from where it was halted in 2018.” He said that parliamentary board meeting of Rawalpindi division would be held on Monday and Hazara and Malakand divisions’ meeting was scheduled for Dec 5. Similarly, candidates from Balochistan would be interviewed on Dec-6, Bahawalpur on Dec 8, Multan on Dec 9, Sahiwal on Dec 11, Faisalabad on Dec 12, Gujranwala on Dec 13, Lahore on Dec 14 and Lahore city Dec 15, Sindh province on Dec 16, Islamabad in Dec 18 and KPK remaining candidates would be called for interview on Dec 19. Merit, their courage to serve people of the country, and party loyalty would be preferred.
Earlier, the first session of the Parliamentary Board of the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) was convened on Saturday at the PML-N Central Secretariat in Model Town. The primary agenda of the session was the short-listing of suitable candidates for the upcoming general elections from the Sargodha division, focusing on both national and provincial assemblies.
Chaired by party Quaid Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif, the session saw the participation of key party figures, including Senior Vice President and Chief Organiser Maryam Nawaz Sharif, Senate Election Cell Head Senator Ishaq Dar, and Party Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal. The presence of the party’s central and provincial coordinators, along with the participation of the coordinators from the relevant division, added depth to the deliberations.
According to a press release issued by the PML-N, the session meticulously discussed and evaluated potential candidates from the Sargodha division, aiming to field a formidable team for the upcoming elections. Commencing with a solemn Fateha recitation, the session paid respects to the memory of two senior parliamentarians, Begum Najma Hamid and Mushahidullah Khan, offering prayers for their departed souls.
As the session unfolded, heartfelt tributes were extended to the late Begum Najma Hamid, acknowledging her pivotal role as an identity of the Muslim League (N). The session emphasised her indelible contributions during Begum Kulsoom Nawaz’s struggle, marking the first anniversary of her demise with expressions of gratitude for her services to the country, the nation, and the party. Similarly, paying homage to the late party leader Mushahidullah Khan, the session highlighted his invaluable role as a precious asset for the party. The session concluded with an announcement regarding the next meeting of the Parliamentary Board scheduled for December 4.
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