Friday, August 27, 2010

Risk Management:floods and businesses

There is an old saying that irrigated societies are dead in the long-run.Rivers used to meander and change their course leaving the population clusters away.With no means of transportation of water in those times,populations perihsed.This is probably what happened to Mohen jo daro And Harappa.Rivers have been tamed to flow on a fixed path,as is Indus,which it does normally.River control measures have also had side effects:raising of river beds which results in floods.Flood this time has been the bloodiest in history of almost biblical proportions.A vareity of measures are responsible for excessive flooding and the associated destruction.

In 1971,many people in the then West Pakistan felt relieved due to the seperation of East Pakistan, because people here were fed up of frequent typhoons there and the need for help.Apparently Bangla desh has more or less solved its typhoon problem by installing appropriate managemeny system and we donot hear much of a routine calamity and destruction,although natures roughness shoul be still there.

In due course Pakistan has emerged as a country with all kinds of afflictions;terrorism,eath-quakes and floods and the problems compuonded due to the familiar but apt cliche of poor governance.Part of the problem could be handled and thus misery reduced by the same proportion due to adequate planning and management.We are today by all measures a high risk country.We have to learn Risk Management.

Risk Management used to be a term specific for hazards in insurance business or credit risk in banking.Today risk management is much more pervasive.Nations indulge in risk analysis as a national security measure and a wide array of stake holders and professionals participate in it. An area ,where classically militaries alone used to dominate the action.Recently Switzerland has made public a similar exercise.

Our business enterprises should also start taking business risks seriously and as a formal business management functions. we frequently come across business closures or heavy losses appreciably reducing networth of companies.Risk management is implicit and built in in all areas of management functions.However what is less common is an itegrated and formal risk analysis and management consisting of identification,assessment,evaluation,mitigation and communication.In the current flood tribulation,communication management has been a major issue and sorce of many undesrved miseries.We have discussed this seperatel under floods.

Business risks could be reduced and losses curtaied by adopting formal risk managent procedures.Medium and large businesses should make a beginning.In many countries adoption and communication of a formal risk management system by public listed companies has become a or comoing to become a legal requirement.There used to be a COSO frame-work of the US and now there is more universal ISO 31000 standard dealing with Enterprize Risk Management.Our management training institutions should also make a beginning in this respect.

In the recent floods many business assetts and infrastructure has also been affected resulting in significant losses to mobile and power companies.Plant siting decisions in the past have not seriously considered and evaluated flooding issues. Seismic designing and legal requirements in this respect are of relatively recent origins.Excessive exposure or market share in a product,sector or geography or technology are the non-physical risk factors.The list can be long and every entities list and its permutations and combinations different:inputs risk of availability,quality and prices and technological develpments in user,product,processes etc;labour risks involving cost,unrests and politics;receivables ,and there concentration in localities ,sectors etc.

One way to mitigate flood risks esp to businesses ang generally public would be flood insurance.In Pakistan flood insurance has not yet been introduced.Through flood risk insurance, resources could be mobilised in a regular and predictable way .Flood risk insurance would also bring formalisation into risk mitigation and compensation measures.

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