MARC P. GEORGE, The Ambassador of Switzerland in Pakistan
EVOLVE: Please share with our readers about yourself and the efforts made by you towards the enhancement of a cordial relationship between Pakistan and Switzerland?
H.E Mr. Marc: I have been in Pakistan for almost four years. I came here as the Deputy Head of Mission and since 2014 I have been serving as Ambassador. I am serving two assignments simultaneously; Pakistan and Afghanistan.
I also travel to Afghanistan twice a year. With respect to Pakistan, we have the Embassy and office of the Swiss Corporation in Islamabad. In Karachi we have a Consulate and the Swiss Business Council which is like a Swiss
Chamber of Commerce that promotes the export of goods to Pakistan and supports Swiss companies to enter the Pakistani market. As far as my priorities are concerned, trade and commercial relations are on the top. We are vigorously working to promote and invite Swiss companies to Pakistan and vice versa. Switzerland is an open market with few restrictions. You can sell high quality goods to Swiss consumers and we know that Pakistan has the potential to produce high quality products. To make ties stronger, I have visited different chambers of commerce in major cities like Faisalabad, Sialkot, Multan, Bahawalpur, as well as Sindh and KPK. In KPK, we have discussed inviting Swiss companies to invest in tourism and are also considering potential opportunities presented by CPEC.
Switzerland is successful because education is on the top of our countrys agenda. The stability of our institutions and the strong link between the private and public sector is also very important
EVOLVE: In 2017, Switzerland and Pakistan completed their 68 years (1949 – 2017) of friendship. Please share your feelings in context of this long term relationship?
H.E Mr. Marc: We have recognized Pakistan as an independent and sovereign country since 1949. We had our embassy first in Karachi and then we moved to Islamabad in the 60s. The Swiss corporation (SDC) has been working for more than 51 years in the north of the country; mainly in KPK. SDC will pull out of Pakistan by the end of 2019.
Major Swiss companies like ABB and Nestle have been here for many decades proving the depth of bilateral cordial relationships. They are doing well and enjoy the trust of Pakistani consumers.
Major Swiss companies like ABB and Nestle have been here for many decades proving the depth of bilateral cordial relationships
Moreover, for decades many Pakistanis have been traveling and studying in Switzerland which means we also have strong person to person links. We have outstanding universities where we may continue to strengthen such links. Regarding the future, there are clear overlapping areas of cooperation such as protecting the environment, ecology, and water management; Switzerland also has experience and expertise to deal with mountain abrasions. The private sector in Pakistan is very vibrant. When I was in Sialkot, Faisalabad and Karachi, I noticed that Pakistan is facing a shortage of skilled labor in terms of high mechanical skills. These days, many Pakistani companies are buying sophisticated machines, so these companies need more and more technically skilled people.
EVOLVE: What are the major areas where both countries are working and can work together?
H.E Mr. Marc: We have just signed the Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement on March 21st with Minister Dar. So, in terms of government to government, I think we can work on the legal issues such as how we can reinforce
the legal frameworks for bilateral relations, trade and to facilitate the business communities. With its counterpart, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Switzerland has a political dialogue every 18/24 months and during these dialogues we discuss issues including trade, culture, human rights and a wide range of other topics. Every January, in Switzerland there is a World Economic Forum in Davos. This year your Prime Minister, and (Ret.) General Raheel Shareef participated. Prime Minister Sharif met with the President of the Swiss Confederation, Ms. Doris Leuthard. There were many Pakistani businessmen present and so there is a positive interaction between both countries. We also have Switzerland Global Enterprise that has the objective to promote the export of Swiss goods. They are very
vibrant and active and really try to mobilize resources, people, SMEs in Switzerland to come to Pakistan.
EVOLVE: What in your opinion, are the factors behind the global success of Swiss companies despite Switzerland being a relatively smaller country in terms of population and area?
H.E Mr. Marc: There are lot of constraints in our economy; we do not have natural resources nor are we part of the European Union. The labor market is also very expensive. But I think Switzerland is successful because education is on the top of our countrys agenda. The stability of our institutions and the strong link between the private and public sector is also very important. Finally, strong infrastructure with a high level of technological skill can be considered the main drivers of prosperity.
I do think that part of our success is based on our federal and decentralised system. In Switzerland, we have a direct democracy with a federal state and cantons (equivalent to provinces) and communes with strong competences
EVOLVE: How do you opine about Pak-Swiss trade initiatives and relations? What is the future?
H.E Mr. Marc: We have 2 pillars of enagement; Trade and Development (Swiss Development Corporation). In 2019, the Swiss Development Corporation will close its engagement and as such, the main area of cooperation will be focused on Trade. As far as relations are concerned, we would like to show our Pakistani counterparts that Swiss companies in Pakistan are operating under the highest standards. As in Switzerland, we have very high standards in terms of corporate social responsibility, environmental protection and human resource management within companies. We also emphasize practicing the same in other countries and this is a true founding principle of Switzerland: to be a country of the highest values and standards.
EVOLVE: What are your suggestions to improve the levels of good governance, democracy and human rights in Pakistan?
H.E Mr. Marc: I do not have any specific suggestion for Pakistan. However I do think that part of our success
is based on our federal and decentralized system. In Switzerland, we have a direct democracy with a federal state and cantons (equivalent to provinces) and communes with strong competences. Under our municipality system, the local government develops and takes care of, for instance, local schools, fire brigades, hospitals, culture, roads, waste management, water management etc. This model may be helpful to Pakistan.
In Switzerland, we have very high standards in terms of corporate social responsibility, environmental protection and human resource management within companies
Part of why Switzerland is successful in terms of governance and social welfare is due to its efficient taxation system. Taxes are levied by the Swiss Confederation, the cantons and the municipalities. For being efficient, a tax system
must be transparent. The citizen should know how his taxes are spent. I must say that development and prosperity in a country should be linked to the ethics of paying taxes. Private individuals and businesses in Switzerland benefit
from some of the lowest tax rates in Europe. Currently, the tax to GDP ratio in my country stands at approximately 28%. In Switzerland, the judiciary is impartial and ensures legal security and the protection of human rights of all citizens. The Swiss Administration also cooperates and as part of the Council of Europe, a mechanism to take your
issue to the European level is also in practice. Our independent and strong judiciary provides trust and confidence to the citizens and to the private sector. Finally, in Switzerland we practice a culture of consensus. This culture is deeply rooted in our political life as well as in our social fabric and in the economic sector. We are used to compromise and to find solutions based on consensus. This approach has the advantage to diminish conflicts and to create a wide social support to the decisions made by the political apparatus.
EVOLVE: Would you please tell about the chances of winning global war against terrorism and how do you evaluate the role of Pakistan as front line state in war of terrorism?
H.E Mr. Marc: War against terrorism is a lengthy process and I hope to see it end very soon. Solidarity is pivotal, not only within European countries, but also in this region of the world. Several European countries were targeted
recently in the Manchester (UK) terrorist attack and we see its existence in France, Belgium, Germany etc. With reference to the role of Pakistan, it has been an active and central one for a very long time now. Since I arrived in 2013 things have improved. There is a large consensus regarding the threat but I think there is still a lot to do. Pakistan will win this war when its young generation of men and women have hope, a future and benefit from access to good education, training, employment, social rights etc. Wars are won by education and income generated through dignified work – not by weapons.
EVOLVE: We highly acknowledge the timely human response and financial assistance of your government in the times of crisis. Kindly tell us your future diversified plans and programs for the uplift of the affected people in the country.
H.E Mr. Marc: After 51 years Switzerland has decided to withdraw our financial assistance. The decision was made by the Government and Parliament in 2008 and now it will be implemented. There are 2 reasons behind this decision. First, the budgetary constraints and second, we are trying to concentrate more on other regions such as Africa, around Europe, Jordan and Syria. Pakistan is becoming a middle income country and the private sector and
business are increasingly growing. At the same time, other low income countries need more of our support and cooperation.
We are not a part to any political decision and process in Brussels, but we are very much integrated in Europe.
EVOLVE: Kindly share the academic cooperation initiatives between Pakistan and Switzerland? Can we foresee Swiss support for quality enhancement of Pakistani universities?
H.E Mr. Marc: There is no institutional cooperation mechanics in practice at the moment. We do offer scholarships and every year Pakistani students apply for these Swiss Government Excellence scholarships in the disciplines of research after Masters, PhD and post-doctorate. Thirty-four (34) Pakistani students have received such scholarships since 2013.
EVOLVE: You work very hard as an Ambassador, what do you do to relax? Do you have any hobbies?
H.E Mr. Marc: As for us being diplomats, sometimes its difficult for us to travel freely within Pakistan as we need NOCs. It is not very easy to be spontaneous; you have to plan in advance. Once you plan in advance, you can travel a lot as I did in the north of the country. This summer I would like to hike in in Gilgit-Baltistan. I also love horse riding, swimming and hiking. There is also very active cultural life and vibrant social life which I have to say is a very positive point for Pakistan. It is easy to have friends in this country and people are so welcoming. I try to keep myself busy.
EVOLVE: Your message to the readers of EVOLVE magazine.
H.E Mr. Marc: Pakistan is culturally and linguistically a diverse country, which is a wonderful asset. Pakistanis should be proud to have provinces that have such diversity and could work to focus on celebrating the richness
of its culture more. I have been visiting the Chambers of Commerce and I know there are Bar associations and they are very democratic in the way they are functioning . Elections are held annually and I was amazed to see how vibrant some of these chambers are on tackling very specific issues. For example, in Sialkot the chamber of commerce made an airport, and is planning to create new airlines. This is a very positive and encouraging aspect of Pakistani society. And it is an illustration – to me – that democracy, the culture political debates and the dynamism
of the private sector are ready to deal with the great challenges Pakistan has to face to be successful in its development.