Call me “Good friend”: Ghufran Memon running the numbers

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The new Pakistani Consul General is only on his second posting, but it comes after a lifetime of rising through the Pakistani government. An unusual background for an unusual CG.

Pakistani CG Ghufran Memon - 2YOUNG GOOD FRIEND.
Who wouldn’t want to be
a good friend to Ghufran?

Putting a friendly face first, the new Consul General from Pakistan has made his difficult-to-pronounce name an asset. He claims everyone from the Chief Executive to his friends call him: “Good friend”.

Ghufran has come to the head of mission in Hong Kong, a post sought after by diplomats around the world with a sense of surprise – for many years he hadn’t even been working as a diplomat.

His short career in diplomacy, however, was preceded and followed by an impressive one in finance and administration, culminating in a stint as the Chief Financial Officer for the Pakistani Ministry of Defence – arguably the strongest institution in the country. He brings his finance and operations experience to every aspect of running the Consulate – all with the rigour and precision of an MBA educated auditor.

Traditionally, historically, right from the beginning … As you know, Pakistan and China are the best friends ever.

Early days to Senior Ministry
His early career prowess in numbers came from an even earlier education in Cardiff. Back in Pakistan, he started in government trying to think of ways to increase exports. His flair for numbers was recognised as he moved from department to department in audit and even worked for the Zakat Council, an official body that distributes welfare largesse from funds collected via zakat – the giving of alms that is one of the five pillars of Islam.

He was first posted abroad to Jakarta as Commercial Secretary in the Embassy in the 1990s. He expected to find the country in flames. What he found was quite different. “I thought the whole Indonesia will be burning and I will be having some masks or something but I went there and it was nothing. It looked like some jungle where there was a fire…so, you see proof of the pudding is in the eating.” What he learned from this was not to believe everything you heard in the media. As a good diplomat, you had to go see the real situation on the ground with your own eyes. Reports were not always good enough.

That being said, reports were a large part of his work when he returned to  Pakistan and worked again in audit across the government. Railways,  public corporations, and even, briefly, the Ministry of Defence all came under his microscope. In 2013, he was ready to take on the role of a diplomat again.

Hit the ground running
The Consul General arrived with a plan – a full roadmap on how to approach his new position. Multiple plans as a matter of fact – the legacy of a life spent in planning and details. Targets? “SMART: Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.” (He does give full credit  to Drucker via his MBA for that approach).

While mindful of those plans, he had priorities of his own. He laid down  several milestones for himself when he took office. “I have a very clear  roadmap in front of me”, Mr Memon says when he first took the job. The some 30,000-strong Pakistani in Hong Kong are his responsibility and one important thing he had in mind when he first arrived in Hong Kong  was to do community service for his people. “The first thing I should do is to make my house in order if there’s any problems in delivering the [consulate] services.” Mr Memon proudly claims his success in shortening the time for visa application and other consul services in his “house.” With this achievement, he closes his first milestone in the first 6 months in the office. Non-Pakistani nationals seeking a visa to Pakistan can get it in 2 hours in most occasions.

Pakistani CG Ghufran Memon - 1
The Consul General and his spouse,
Mrs. Faryal Ghufran
Memon, say
hello to Carrie Lam, Chief Secretary.

Currently in the office for 9 months now, he is moving on to his second milestone: to understand the dynamics of Hong Kong and to enhance the interaction between  entrepreneurs from Pakistan and Hong Kong. He is a frequent guest at key social events in the town and he  shows up for roughly two events a day. “I will normally  attend all the social functions.” In this he has an ablepartner in his spouse, Mrs. Faryal Ghufran Memon,  who has been active in meeting the community and engaging Hong Kong.

Three months more from now and he will expect the results from his first two milestones pay off – local Pakistani will be happy with his consular services and he will gain a manual in his head outlining the different dynamics in Hong Kong.

With his house in order and a grasp of the Hong Kong situation, he can move on to playing the bigger game he is keen to play – trade and investment.

Pakistan: open for business
By the end of his 4-year tenure, he hopes to at least double the trade volume between Pakistan and Hong Kong which accounts US$686m in 2012. He had the same goal almost 20 years ago when he worked in Jakarta. Seeing himself as a “junior” at that time in the Embassy of Pakistan, Mr Memon proudly speaks of his grand  achievement for increasing the trade volume threefold.

This time, he believes that the “double-barreled advantages” of Pakistan will make this possible. “Pakistan has traditionally been very close to China”, the proximity gives Pakistan easy access to the China market. In last February, China Overseas Port Holding Company took operational charge of Gwadar Port, one of the three international deep-sea ports in Pakistan. A highway connecting the port to China is underway and Mr Memon sees big changes ahead. As labour prices rise in China, he sees Pakistan as a natural destination for factory owners relocating to cheaper manufacturing bases.

The second advantage is the political and judiciary system inherited from the British rule in the old days. “Pakistan has the same judicial system  Hong Kong has”, says Mr Memon and he sees plenty lessons to draw from Hong Kong. He sees Hong Kong has more to offer than investment.  Championed as the freest economy in the world for more than 20 years,  this is a record he is particularly impressed of Hong Kong. “I will try to  take advantages of this freest economy from my angle.” The similarity in legal systems may help ease the negotiations for at Double Taxation  Agreement, getting underway in The Year of the Horse.

My focus will be investment to Pakistan…That will have a double effect. [It will create jobs…] The trade will also be  increased because of these investments.

He knows his focus. “My focus will be investment to Pakistan…That will have a double effect. [It will create jobs…] The trade will also be increased  because of these investments.”

His rich background in finance and trade have gained him new perspective to the role as a Consul General. “This  posting of Consul General of Hong Kong…it is more like trade diplomacy. I consider this [consulate] as a “trading house.” He has a glint in his eye when he talks about the ambitions for his country and how business between Pakistan, China and Hong Kong are evolving.

He gave Diplomat a little advance notice of the growing business ties between the two and suggested we may well see the launch of The Pakistani Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong in the next couple of months. Watch this space.

Given his penchant for planning, his eye for detail and his enthusiasm to succeed he will no doubt be an effective Consul General. He seems to move from goal to goal with a clear idea of how to get there. Diplomat will  have an eye on him for more action in the near future.

Mr Ghufran Memon CV highlights
• Consul General of Pakistan to Hong Kong and Macau – Appointed 2013
• Director (Commercial), Trading Corporation of Pakistan, Ministry of Commerce 2011-2013
• Chief Financial Officer, Ministry of Defence, 2011
• Special Secretary, Home Department, Government of Sindh 2009-2010
• Many roles in audit and finance in Sindh and national government.
• Commercial Secretary, Embassy of Pakistan in Jakarta, Indonesia 1995-1999

Office location
8/F, Tung Wai Commercial Building,
109-111 Gloucester Road,
Wanchai, Hong Kong
Tel: 2827 0681 / 2827 0295