Dear Sam Setter,

I was under the impression that subsequent to your query, no further comments were required from me. However, as you choose to elicit further comments, I would like to say that first of all do not like to mix politics and business.

No-one, including the developed countries, should be developing arms of mass destruction. No-one should exploit the poor and helpless. No-one gives help for nothing.

What help the EU, or for that matter any country in the world, gives it must ask for something in return. I only wish to clarify that the volume of Pakistan leather exports to the EU is so minimal that it does not affect the health of any tanner there.

The meagre duty of 3.5% is levied on the import of goat and sheepskin. Cow/buffaloes attract a levy of 6.8%. Unfortunately, the classification for all leather is the same.

The removal of this duty will help sustain the import of calf leather to the EU. This will eventually benefit the shoe industry in the EU. The tanneries in Europe did not close down because of stiff competition from anyone abroad, but rather from the social stigma it had at home.

The money paid for a pair of work gloves by a European buyer is less than one cigarette lit and smoked in less than three minutes. Tycoons are not just in Pakistan, they are a phenomenon of globalisation or gobble-up-everywhere.

In Pakistan, according to a survey done in 1988 for the Agha Khan Foundation on individual giving, it appears that individual citizens of Pakistan gave just over Rs70 billion (the equivalent of $1.5 billion).

We do not ask for any charity, only facilitation, mutual cooperation and help which should indeed be for the benefit of both buyers and sellers.

Masood Ahmed Shaikh

And Sam says

PS: S M Naseem is the new chairman of the PTA

Dear Mr Masood

First of all thank you very much for your valued comments to my Limeblast, which I knew would not have your approval. I did, however, send you a copy of the text on July 15 that I was planning to publish and I have asked you on that occasion if you wanted to comment.

It is my habit to take note of comments and I have no problem in admitting when I am wrong.

Your expression about the development of arms of mass destruction and exploitation of the poor is noted and appreciated. We think the same way in these matters .

We also agree that nothing is for nothing, and that one day one pays for gifts in whatever form. Unfortunately politics are part of our daily life, our economy is ruled by politics, all over the world.

Objectively speaking, the western world has helped your country, like it has helped other countries, and part of that help has been without strings. In my view the balance is in your favour and I have no quarrel with that.

Any type of tariff is an aggravating factor in business, not a form of help. Often these duties are levied on a tit for tat basis without making sense.

The EU levies duties on Pakistani imports, likewise Pakistan levies duties on EU imports, as in our sector tannery machines (20%) and chemicals, without having a domestic industry capable or willing to produce equivalent material.

I do not know, however, which is born first, the egg or the chicken. Obviously the EU is not interested in importing Pakistani hides or calf otherwise it would have reduced the import duty as it did on the import of Pakistani frozen fish.

Many tanneries in Europe closed down due to stiff competition, believe me.

About a year ago I mentioned in some Limeblast that many tanneries shifted their production eastwards in order to avoid the heavy cost of pollution control.

I think it is wrong to shift pollution from one country to another.

Pakistan is in the same situation as Europe was 20 years ago. Expenses and overheads increase, labour is more costly. Hence you become less competitive and again the production shifts eastwards. This cannot be avoided.

You can put a plaster on a bleeding wound, but the bleeding won’t stop. Your country starts suffering from the same social stigma you had mentioned Europe had suffered.

The market decides the prices. Hence, if a pair of work gloves costs less than a cigarette, well, that cannot be changed. I have a friend who produced leather garments.

Now he imports leather garments because he can’t match the prices that can be offered for garments made in Pakistan first, India afterwards, then Thailand and now China. He goes where he buys cheapest, because so do his buyers.

Sellers for their part go where they can sell at the highest price. I did not say this is right but that is the reality. Buyers and sellers have to find common ground themselves not through their governments.

Trade is free. The times of government facilitation are gone. Governments simply don’t have the money. We are back to the bush fight and neither you nor I can change that, despite our good will.

I take note of your observation about the Aga Khan foundation, but I think it best not to comment as this has social-religious roots and in my view those are extremely personal matters that each person has to address in his own way.

I respect everybody in exactly the same way from the poorest worker to the richest tycoon, each religion and all races, because we are all the same – human beings with the same rights and duties. Some unfortunately are luckier than others.

Please do not hesitate to contact me whenever you feel like contacting me. I am open for any discussion for better or for worse. If you see situations that are worth making public through Limeblast, I am at your complete disposal.

Sam Setter

and there is more

The following is by way of a postscipt regarding the exchanges with Don Ohsman and Masood Ahmed Shaikh

Good morning Don

Thank you very much for your quick reply. I have very large shoulders and they are quite strong. Don’t worry about me. No hard feelings at all, which I hope you haven’t either. I think that between the two of us we have done quite well.

You said what you did not like, and I replied, both openly and honestly. That’s the way to resolve problems and find common ground.

Dialogue. It appears to me though that we do agree on most of the issues. We just differ in the minor details.

I know I sometimes write some tough Limeblasts (I wasn’t pussy-footing with the Pakistanis this month) and I expect people to react either way, pleased or angry.

The purpose of Limeblast, which is never a personal attack, is not to make people angry, but start a debate, a discussion, or just let people think, and not take things for granted.

Shelagh is not some devil or puppet master behind the scenes provoking controversy or a fight. She just agrees with me (most of the time), that this industry often turns too fast over on its back.

It is rare, but sometimes she does refuse to publish a Limeblast when she thinks I go too far.

I do appreciate your work and I full well recognise that the market report is your business, and that you run your business with conscience. By no means do I want to interfere with your, or anybody else’s, business.

Anyway, please do react if you feel like it, and I’ll always answer. I intend to run the December Limeblast about the dull 2002 market where we saw few changes in prices, neither bull nor bear. If you have suggestions, I’d be happy to listen.

Best regards