Interview of H.E. Rolf Holmboe, Ambassador of Denmark to Pakistan
Author : Raja Aamir Mahmood Bhatti
DS: How do you see the relationships between Pakistan and Denmark?
Ambassador: Denmark was among the first to establish diplomatic relations to Pakistan, and the SAS – the Scandinavian Airlines Systems – was also among the first to open a flight connection, between Karachi and Copenhagen. Many Pakistanis have come to Denmark initially to work, but have now established themselves in Denmark for generations. A number of renowned personalities in politics, media, academia and business are Danes of Pakistani origin, and they are also contributing to deepening the ties between our countries.
DS: Keeping in mind the strong relations between our countries, what do you suggest to Pakistani investors? Do they have investment opportunities in Denmark?
Ambassador: In view of the economic challenges of the country, I think the primary objective should be to invest in Pakistan. Pakistan has experienced great troubles in accessing global export markets – a developing country needs 3 – 5 times higher exports than is the case presently. If Pakistani investors would invest in qualitative production lines that could be the basis for enhanced cooperation with global partners, including in Denmark. And that could help boost Pakistani exports.
DS: How many Danish companies active in Pakistan and on which sectors they are investing or are keen to invest in Pakistan?
Ambassador: Around 50 Danish companies are active in business in Pakistan or are in partnerships with Pakistani counterparts. Companies like MÆRSK is providing fast, reliable and affordable transport of Pakistani goods to global markets. Companies like NOVO NORDISK, LUNDBECK, PHARMACOSMOS and LEO PHARMA are providing pharmaceutical solutions to key challenges such as diabetes & obesity, depression, skin diseases and not least stunting.
Around 50 Danish companies are active in business in Pakistan
We see a keen interest among Danish companies in sustainable food & agriculture, renewable energy solutions, the pharmaceutical industry and not least in collaborative sourcing whether in traditional Pakistani strongholds such as textile & leather goods or new promising areas within software & technology.
DS: What would be the future of economic ties in terms of trade between our countries
Ambassador: Over the last years there has been a steady increase in the business relations between our two countries, and we expect this trend to continue and strengthen over the coming years as Pakistan through necessary reforms in the ease of doing business and lowering of energy costs works its way of the current financial and economic crisis.
What is the volume of trade between Pakistan & Denmark and what kinds of goods have trade between the two countries?
Trade (goods & services) between Pakistan and Denmark reached approx. $750 million in 2018, which is a doubling over the preceding five-year period. Main sectors include: shipping & logistics, machinery, agri commodities, textile & leather goods as well as pharmaceuticals.
DS: Denmark has very impressive taxation system and Pakistani government is trying to improve its tax collection system. How Denmark can support Pakistan in Taxation reforms.
Ambassador: Tax is the key foundation for any state to function. In a way, paying tax is the investment of citizens and businesses in their own country, and it allow them to put demands to the efficient and result-oriented functioning of the public sector to the benefit of the whole. The principle that everybody and every company pays tax in an transparent and equitable way has been a key element in building not only the modern welfare state that we have in Denmark with free education at all levels, free health to all levels and a social protection net for those in need. It has also been crucial in building a diversified and string economy and in building clusters of research & development that has allowed Danish companies to become global leaders in a number of fields.
DS: How we can improve the diplomatic relations through cultural diplomacy?
Ambassador: Cultural understanding and the acceptance of the other are key elements in breaking down cultural and other barriers and in forging a world based on mutual understanding and respect. It has been a key element in building a peaceful and prosperous Europe after the Second World War, for instance.
DS: Denmark is growing its economy in the agriculture field. Do you think Denmark can help Pakistan to develop its agricultural sector further with latest technology and modern techniques?
Ambassador: There is a great potential for cooperation between Pakistani and Danish companies in the broader food & agricultural field. If Pakistani companies want to invest in qualitative production lines and methods that could help them access export markets, there are ample solutions and possibilities available.
DS: What are possibilities for Pakistanis students to take up their studies in Denmark?
Ambassador: The EU every year takes about 1000 students through the ERASMUS Program from Pakistan to Europe for studies, including to Denmark. This is of benefit of course to Pakistan and can help inspire Pakistani students in their respective fields, but it also an opportunity for us in Europe to benefit from the perspectives seen from this part of the world.
DS: Denmark is one of the leading welfare states in the world. Please can you share some interesting facts?
Ambassador: In Denmark we believe in equality, in giving everyone a chance to excel each in their own field irrespective of being poor or rich, and in assisting those who for some reasons cannot provide for themselves. The tax system is progressive: all pay tax, but you pay more, the more money you earn. Not only is education free of cost; if a student qualifies through merit for university, they get paid a monthly stipend to make sure that all have equal opportunities for education. The health system is also free of cost, for a healthy citizenry active in the work force is also a key asset for the country itself. We have a minimum wage system that ensures that most people, even in menial jobs, can lead a fulfilling and meaningful life in security and comfort. And if for some reason you are not able to work, we have a social security net that will ensure that you can still live a life in relative comfort. A welfare state is a state in which all citizens contribute what they can and enjoy the services they need!
There is a great potential for cooperation between Pakistani and Danish companies
DS: On which sectors during your services in Pakistan you would focus more in order to strengthen the bilateral ties between the two countries?
Ambassador: We are of course engaged in many fields, but we are very much focusing on building business ties between Pakistani and Danish companies. Economic growth is key to underpin the Government’s ambition of building a welfare state in Pakistan, and building economic ties is a win-win for all parties. That is the beauty of business relationships!
DS: What message would you like to give to the youth of Pakistan?
Ambassador: We look to youth to give drive and leadership in all our development processes, and this task also befalls the youth of Pakistan. It is not an easy task, but without empowering youth to become drivers of change and development – and of innovation and devising new ways for the country to strengthen its ties with the global community – any country would be the poorer. Youth is the future of the country. That is why any country must do what it can to empower youth!