Pakistan: Meeting the Challenges

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Atta-ur-Rahman,

N.I., H.I., S.I., T.I.

In my previous article I have mentioned that Pakistan can learn from the strategic approach to progress adopted by China to ensure sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development. This involved simultaneously following two parallel tracks. The first track involved reviving its agriculture through the Spark programme that helped to alleviate rural poverty and brought quick returns. The other track was to focus on high technology manufacturing through five important initiatives ——“The Key Technologies R&D Program”, “The 863 Program”and “The 973 Program”, and “The Torch Program”.Under these programs high technology products were identified for industrial production and exports in fields such as information technology, lasers, robotics and automation, energy, biotechnology, space flight, new materials, marine sciences, electronics, energy, transportation, mineral resources exploration, environmental protection, medical and health care etc. Universities and research centers were strengthened to produce manpower capable of mass production of high tech products, and over 10 million of the brightest young men and women sent to top universities across Europe, USA, Japan and Australia in the last 3 decades. Over a thousand research institutions were strengthened that helped to transform China from a sleepy backward country to a giant economic power that has even USA shuddering at its emergence as a global leader.
Mr. Imran Khan has much to learn from this strategic approach to China. However he has a weak cabinet composed largely of politicians with little understanding of what it takes to transition to a knowledge economy. One may be able to win elections with such a team. Socio-economic development is a highly complex task, that requires deep insights into mechanisms to unleash the powers of the “triple helix” — a dynamic interplay between top specialists in the government formulating suitable policies, massive investments in universities and research centers, and a private sector willing to invest in the manufacture and export of high technology products. The present political system precludes specialists to be included in the Cabinet, as they do not fall in the category of “electables” and can never become Members of National or Provincial Assemblies, given the nature of our election process, and the strong feudal strangle hold over the system. That is why Quaid-i-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah had advocated the Presidential system of democracy. His hand written note is available for all to see in “The Jinnah Anthology”, page 81, Oxford University Press. The Presidential system allows the President to choose Ministers from the best minds in the country. It also ensures a much better separation of powers between the three arms of governance— the Legislative (Parliament), the Executive (Federal and Provincial government institutions) and the Judiciary (Federal and Provincial courts). So the dilemma before Mr. Imran Khan is what to do under the circumstances.
One thing that could be done right away to set up a “technocrat government” is to appoint top experts in each field as Federal and Provincial Secretaries. Each Ministry should have a Task Force with the best 15 experts in that field in the country including persons from the private sector. Each Ministry should come forward with a strategy regarding the key projects that could be undertaken to alleviate poverty, create jobs, reduce imports and promote the manufacture and export of high technology products.
In order to make our industry competitive, we will need to provide energy at a very low cost, say Rs. 7-8 per kWh. This can set the whole industry alive and enhance our exports. This is possible if we produce electricity using solar energy (production costs in UAE are Rs. 4 per kWh) or from hydroelectric plants.Furthermore we produce excess energy at night, and we could give a 50% concessional night rates to industry to make them more competitive.
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