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Family Charters – A Key to unlocking the Economic Potential


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Fiza Gilani

Succession planning presents a profound challenge for family businesses in Pakistan, and addressing this challenge is of paramount importance. Recent research conducted by the Family Business Network Pakistan has revealed that only 40% of family businesses in Pakistan endure beyond the second generation. This alarming statistic can be attributed to a myriad of factors, including inadequate succession planning, intra-family conflicts, and the absence of a well-defined governance structure.

One of the significant solution to these complex challenges often lies within the domain of family charters. A family charter is a legally binding document that outlines the rules and regulations governing the management, governance, and ownership of a family business. Beyond this, it also encompasses aspects such as the employment of family members, profit distribution, and the disposal of shares. While discussing the new legal frameworks in Saudi Arabia and their productive impact, we will be assessing how Pakistan can strengthen the family charter system and contribute towards economic development.

The recently enacted Saudi Companies Law, embodied in Cabinet Decision No 678/1443, represents a monumental stride towards promoting a resilient family business ecosystem. The Companies Law’s provisions concerning family businesses align with the economic objectives coupled in Saudi Arabia’s transformative Vision 2030. A pivotal facet of the Companies Law is the introduction of a robust legal framework for family businesses. Under this framework, founders, partners, and shareholders of family-owned enterprises now have the opportunity to draft a “family charter” or family constitution, a comprehensive document that governs and regulates the family business. This family charter can encompass a multitude of critical provisions, including but not limited to employment policies for family members, profit distribution guidelines, share disposition mechanisms, and protocols for dispute resolution. Once embraced, the family charter assumes the force of a binding contractual agreement and can be seamlessly integrated into the company’s memorandum of association. The specifics within the family charter are entirely customizable, providing flexibility to adapt to the unique needs and dynamics of each family enterprise.

Advantages of adopting a family charter are profound. As a family business evolves across generations, the family charter serves as a safeguard against internal disputes and provides a structured framework for succession and inheritance planning. It empowers families to pre-determine the transfer of rights and responsibilities from one generation to the next, thus averting the potential disintegration of family businesses that may arise from unresolved succession and inheritance matters, spanning both local and international assets and investments. In essence, a well-crafted family charter acts as a prescient shield against uncertainty and steers the family enterprise towards sustainability, prosperity, and the prudent management of wealth. Family-owned businesses, often referred to as family businesses, reportedly account for a substantial 66% of the Kingdom’s private sector GDP.

The ultimate aim of the family charter should not be limited to the preservation of wealth and family unity but should extend towards offering a framework for the family to enhance its wealth in the future, all while preventing internal conflicts. A family charter should be a dynamic and adaptable document, open to amendments, upgrades, or supplements to accommodate evolving business needs and investment opportunities as we witness the uncontrolled advancements in businesses and the disputes arising in them. Drawing a parallel to the world of navigation, just as sailors chart their course to avoid treacherous waters, family businesses should proactively enlist the expertise of legal professionals. By steering clear of potential legal hazards today, these businesses can chart a smoother course, reducing the risk of disputes and ensuring they are well-prepared to navigate the opportunities and challenges of future ventures, both at home and abroad.

Moreover, the implications of the new legal advancements in Kingdom extend beyond the sustainability of family businesses. Multinational corporations considering investments in Saudi Arabia will regard the institutional legal support provided to family businesses as a favorable development. This legal framework encourages them to engage in joint ventures with these robust family enterprises. Consequently, it has the potential to facilitate foreign direct investment.

Foreseeing the implications of Family Charters, Saudi Arabia has taken proactive measures to incorporate family businesses into the country’s economic framework, creating an environment conducive to their long-term growth. Notably, it has established centres like the National Centre for Family Business which have played a significant role in establishing a comprehensive system that bolster the sustainability of family businesses and their contributions to the nation’s progress. 

What can Pakistan Do?

The government of Pakistan is uniquely positioned to strengthen the family charter system, a crucial mechanism that can substantially contribute to economic development. By taking proactive steps, the government can encourage the adoption of family charters among family businesses, facilitate their development, and provide the necessary legal framework. These measures not only promote an advantageous environment for family enterprises and curb the challenges faced in succession but also stimulate economic growth and job creation.

Firstly, the government can play a pivotal role in raising awareness of the advantages of family charters. The establishment of a dedicated center of excellence for family businesses can provide crucial training and support including the coordination of webinars, conferences, and workshops, forming strategic alliances with institutions, and engaging in constructive dialogues with government ministries regarding national undertakings. Such programs would target family businesses and their advisors, emphasizing the potential benefits of implementing family charters.

Moreover, the government should contemplate enacting legislation that explicitly addresses family charters. This legislation would define these and outline the requirements for their validity. It could also mandate their registration with a government agency and establish a legal framework for enforcing family charters in a court of law. To implement these strategies, the government of Pakistan can consider various specific actions which include the offering of tax breaks and financial incentives to family businesses that adopt family charters for encouraging wider adoption of this practice. Additionally, investing in research on family businesses can yield valuable insights and best practices that support the sector’s growth.

In conclusion, the government of Pakistan has a significant role to play in strengthening the family charter system and promoting economic growth. By raising awareness, providing support, resolving disputes, and enacting legislation, the government can create an environment that encourages the adoption of family charters among family businesses. These measures will not only benefit family enterprises but also contribute to overall economic development and job creation and investment opportunities in Pakistan.


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