Prof Atta-ur-Rahman, FRS, NI, HI, SI, TI
Tall claims by successive
governments of devel
opment are put to shame by international rankings in most indicators —poverty levels, literacy, human development index, exports, budget deficit, innovation levels, ease of doing business and many others. The primary reason for this is that in this era of specialization, it is way beyond the capabilities of feudal politicians to seriously tackle the complex issues of socio-economic development. Education, science, technology and innovation (ESTI) are now the key drivers of socio economic development. To harness these requires top experts in their respective fields, and that is why a strong technocrat government has become the need of the hour. Let us take the case of Korea as an example. Chang Ha-sung, an economics professor at Korea University in Seoul and a celebrated South Korean intellectualwas appointed as a new presidential chief of staff for policy.. The post is tasked with coordinating economic policies.Kim Dong-yeon, president of Ajou University, was named finance minister who also has the status of deputy prime minister. If we examine the credentials of the Minister of Higher education or Science & Technology or of other Ministers, they are all eminent experts in their respective fields.
The same situation prevails in smaller fast developing countries such as Singapore or large nations such as China. The present politicians seem to be allergic to the concept of a technocrat government in Pakistan because it would eliminate them from the political scene. However countries such as Korea, Singapore, China and many others have convincingly demonstrated that rapid progress leading to a strong knowledge economy is only possible under a visionary and technologically competent leadership.
In November 2015 I had the opportunity of participating in the 26th General Conference of The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) in Vienna where a Prize instituted in my name by The World Academy of Sciences was awarded to a scientist from Uzbekistan. In his Inaugural address at the conference, the President of Austria Heinz Fischerintroduced me to the Federal Minister of Science in Austria and informed me that Dr. Reinhold Mitterlehner had been also given the status of the Deputy prime Minister of Austria to give him the political clout necessary to implement science & Technology programmes. He had also been appointed him as the Federal Minister of Economy so that he would then be able to give the highest national priority for helping Austria to become an even stronger knowledge economy, that required the highest national priority in terms of financial allocations to be given to Science & Technology. Pakistan needs to follow the examples of Korea and Austria by giving the status of the Deputy Prime Minister to top experts appointed as Federal Ministers of Education and Science & Technology. This would pave the way for Pakistan developing a strong knowledge economy.
It needs to be understood by our leaders that labour and natural resources were responsible for national wealth in the last century. That time has now changed and it is the quality of the human capital that is now the most important factor for socio-economic development. For us to tap into this wealth we need to nurture the creativity in the 100 million youth below the age of 20 present in this country by providing high quality education in schools, colleges, universities and then through their appropriate training in industrial and commercial environments.
Some argue that the reason that democracy has failed to work in Pakistan because it was not given a chance to evolve and flourish due to interventions of military rule. This argument is used by the corrupt to justify their continued corruption. The military interventions were, in most cases, forced by the rampant corruption that brought the country to the brink of bankruptcy and disaster. While some may rejoice at the fact that about years of unhindered democracy had been achieved, that period, particularly the 5 years under PPP rule, was actually the biggest disaster that Pakistan had ever faced in its history. The loot and plunder that occurred under the previous “democratic elected government” led to a devastation of almost all sectors except the army. Those responsible should all have been in jail but the present government has taken little or no action against them. The total value of corruption is estimated at about Rs. 50,000 billion ($ 500 billion) which our politicians have piled abroad under the cover of different “front men”.
It has been demonstrated repeatedly that that the present form of democracy (that I call “feudocracy” as it is in the clutches of the feudal landlords) just will not function in a country where the powerful but corrupt come into the Parliament and then into the Cabinet— about 200 of our “honourable Parliamentarians” in the last provincial and Federal government had forged degrees. We are the only country in the world (deserving a place in the Guinness Book of World Records) in which even the former Federal Minster of Education had forged his college and university degrees to get elected. He should be in jail but cleverly switched camps to save his skin and became part of PML-N.
The parliamentary system of democracy just cannot work in a country where the literacy levels so low and where the feudal system has it’s strangle hold on national politics. We need to introduce a new Presidential system of democracy, as in USA, France and some other countries. The elected President can then select his own team of high quality professionals as Cabinet Ministers who should not be from the Parliament. The members of Parliament need to have at least a Masters degree (as is done in Iran) and should be very carefully screened for their suitability to formulate new laws as well as for their track record of excellence and integrity in their past careers. The Presidential system of democracy also ensures a better separation of powers between the three key pillars —the Legislative, the Executive and the Judiciary. The Parliamentary system fails in this respect as the Prime Minister heads the parliament and he appoints Chairmen of key national institutions such as the police, NAB, FIA, FBR, State Bank, Election Commission etc. The roles of Members of the Parliament or Senate should then be confined to law making and oversight of the government actions, and they must not be allowed to become Federal or Provincial Ministers. This will take away the incentive of greed that has so polluted the Parliament, transforming the process of elections into a dirty lucrative business for many — spend 5 crores and earn a 100 crores later. All persons contesting for any elections should first be approved by a “Judicial Council of Elders” on the basis of their eminence, honesty and competence for the positions.
However who can do this? The present Parliament will never agree to curtail its own powers. The only way that this can happen is through the intervention of the Supreme Court as suo moto action arising from the mandate of our Constitution to protect our basic rights of education, health and self-respect.
The author is former Federal Minister of Science & Technology, former Chairman Higher Education Commission and Chairman of UN Committee for Science, Technology and Innovation for UNESCAP cars driven through crowded streets by thought control.
Artificial intelligence is evolving at a mind boggling pace and before we know it, lawyers, doctors, and even judges will be robots. It is predicted that by 2030, computers will become more intelligent than humans. IBM has already launched two such services, an IBM Watson medical service that offers medical advice to patients, and an IBM Watson legal service that is offering legal advice to customers. Watson already helps nurses diagnosing cancer, 4 times more accurately than human nurses. Young lawyers in USA are worried as they may soon not be able to find jobs because of the services available through robots. IBM Watson offerslegal within seconds, with 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans.
Driverless cars are under development and soon it will be far cheaper to have access to robotic cars that will be at your door step in a minute, instead of having your own car. Petrol and diesel driven cars will soon vanish from our roads and be replaced by electric cars with super fast charging batteries. The upheaval that is occurring can be sensed from the fact that the total value of shares of Tesla, a company established 13 years ago, overtook the value of shares of Ford, which was established in 1904. The CEO of Mercedes gave a speech a few weeks ago in which he stated that the real completion of his company was not with other traditional car companies but with companies such as Facebook, Google, Apple, and Tesla. In fact software will disrupt most traditional industries in the next few years. How the landscape of industry is changing rapidly can be judged from the facts the world’s biggest taxi company (Uber) does not own any cars, the world’s biggest hotel company (bnb) does not own any properties. Most insurance companies will go out of business as there will be hardly any accidents with cars under robotic control so that car insurance will become 100 times cheaper. Solar energy will become the main source of world energy and already installations in UAE are taking place with 1000MW farms at a phenomenally low price— only 3 cents per kilowatt hour. This will allow the water problem to be solved as cheap desalination plants to supply water to coastal cities from sea water, operating with cheap solar energy, will become common place.
For Pakistan to progress in the 21st century and become part of this 4th Industrial Revolution, we need to focus our efforts largely establishing a strong knowledge based economy. This requires diversion of national resources to education, science, technology and innovation (ESTI) so that an eco-system is created where new ideas can be quickly translated into commercial products and processes. This change canonly be accomplished under a visionary leadership. It is therefore essential the Prime Minister should have the necessary qualifications and vision so that he/she can personally oversee the implementation of the ESTI initiatives. This would require a radically different form of democratic government which can dove tail all the national efforts to certain well defined goals so that high quality education, science & technology institutions can be built and innovation systems established.
A core element in such a new democracy would be institutional reforms. These range across the board from the judicial system, election system, police, FBR, NAB, FIA, and large national institutions such as Pakistan Steel and PIA to the educational systems and science research institutions as they are all inter-linked. Reforms would also be needed in institutions providing testing, quality and standards related services, as well as legal and financial institutions.
Successive governments of Pakistan have only paid lip service to education, science, technology, innovation or high tech manufacturing. This has resulted in our country being ranked among the lowest in the world in education, science, human development index or poverty. The change requires the need for a visionary leadership in Pakistan, as was achieved by Korea (General Park), Singapore (Lee Kwan Yew), Malaysia (Mahathir Mohammed) and China (Deng). A knowledge economy must be driven from the top through a visionary, competent and honest leader, backed by a cabinet of the top specialists in the country in their respective disciplines. We will never be able to join the 4th Industrial revolution under incompetent and corrupt political leaders. The time to act is now as tomorrow will be too late!
— The author is former Federal Minister of Science & Technology, former Chairman Higher Education Commission and Chairman of UN Committee for Science, Technology and Innovation for UNESCAP