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IBA panel discussion “After COVID: What have we learnt?”

IBA panel discussion “After COVID: What have we learnt?”

Khalid Mahmood, Managing Director, and CEO, Getz Pharma sharing his remarks at IBA CEO Forum 

On June 23rd, 2021, the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) held a discussion under their ‘CEO Forum’- a platform where different business leaders gather to present their views on current and impending topics. This time, the topic under discussion was: “After COVID: What have we learnt?”. The panelists at this session included Khalid Mahmood, Managing Director and CEO, Getz Pharma, Dinshaw Avari, Executive Director of Avari Hotels, Huma Adnan, Creative Director of FNKAsia and Craft Stories, Kashan Hasan, CEO Reckitt Pakistan and Azhar Abbas, Managing Director of Geo News. The session was moderated by Akbar Zaidi, Executive Director, IBA Karachi.

Speaking on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry, Khalid Mahmood emphasized the need to improve policies for the healthcare sector of Pakistan. In addition to this, he also used the platform to highlight that climate change is real and must not be taken lightly. He emphasized that to protect our future we must begin incorporating green initiatives in our business practices to slow down and halt the damaging effects of climate change.

IBA panel discussion “After COVID: What have we learnt?”

Dr. S. Akbar Zaidi, Executive Director IBA, asking questions from the panelists

Dr. S. Akbar Zaidi, Executive Director IBA opened the floor for discussion by raising a very interesting question, “Are we done with COVID?”. Sharing his viewpoint on this topic, Khalid Mahmood asserted that COVID-19 cases have reportedly gone down in Pakistan; but while this is a positive sign we must not look past the learnings of the past two years. Furthermore, he suggested that post-COVID-19 outbreak, the foremost thing that the world, particularly Pakistan needs to learn, is to spend more of its GDP on health management, mainly on Primary Health Care rather than Specialized Tertiary Health Care. To elaborate on this point, Khalid Mahmood shared few staggering statistics with the audience. He remarked that at present, only 3% of Pakistan’s population is vaccinated. The country has the third-largest tuberculosis population in the world, 19% of its population is diabetic, and there is a high prevalence of Hepatitis C within the Pakistani population. Despite all this, he stated that the country’s policymakers continue to spend very little GDP on healthcare which is indeed an alarming situation.

Furthermore, the discussion proceeded with fellow panelists sharing how their respective businesses fared during the pandemic and the steps they took to protect their employees, their businesses, and their customers. Adding to this topic, Khalid Mahmood shared with the audience that, Getz Pharma manufactures world-class high-quality pharmaceutical products from a wide range of therapeutic segments to help improve the healthcare of our consumers. Getz Pharma operates in an essential and critical industry, which makes it impossible to halt the production process under any circumstances. Hence, when Pakistan was hit with COVID-19, he called his acquaintances in China and Vietnam to understand how businesses were adapting during these unprecedented times. He was pleasantly surprised to learn that businesses in their respective countries were running as per routine because they had incorporated COVID-19 testing at work. By doing so, only workers that tested positive for COVID-19 were asked to go home while the rest of the workforce resumed work. Taking guidance from this, he shared that Getz Pharma imported COVID-19 serology testing kits and mass tested the entire workforce. Getz Pharma also extended this facility to numerous other corporates, factories, and hospitals to keep their workplaces COVID-19 free.

Furthermore, Khalid Mahmood also took the opportunity to raise awareness about climate change- a topic that is extremely close to his heart. He reinstated that the effects of climate change are irreversible, for this reason, Professor Noam Chomsky has dubbed environmental catastrophe as the greatest existential threat to mankind. Yet, we continue to treat mother earth irresponsibly. Khalid Mahmood also shared that at Getz Pharma we strongly believe in leading with examples. For this reason, the company’s new manufacturing facility, Astola, has been designed using the world’s most stringent guidelines for a green building/facility and it features elements that will help reduce carbon emissions, water usage, and energy consumption.

At the end of the discussion, the floor was opened for the audience to ask questions. The majority of the questions were directed at Khalid Mahmood as the audience was curious to know what lies ahead in terms of this pandemic. An audience member asked him a question which is frequently asked by many, as to when will Pakistan produce the COVID-19 vaccine locally? In response to this question, Khalid Mahmood commented that producing the COVID-19 vaccine locally is a complex and dangerous procedure because you are dealing with live viruses. Khalid Mahmood also emphasized that the government needs to take a proactive role in ensuring that vaccination is locally produced so that we can immediately respond to the healthcare crisis. Apart from this, he also used the platform to address the need to update the Science and Technology curriculum.