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Shah Faisal

Pakistan needs power of knowledge, skills and technology for sustainable inclusive growth

China ready to assist Pakistan in empowering its labor force in accordance with the industrial requirements


Mr. Shah Faisal Afridi is a founder President of Pak China Joint Chamber of Commerce & Industry (PCJCCI). He is a professional businessman and CEO of Ruba SEZ Group. Mr. Afridi is leading a large and diversified group of companies in Pakistan, known as Ruba SEZ Group, which is one of the major players of Pakistan’s industry in textiles, electronics, information technology, automobile, banking, real estate, development, power generation and steel sector. Ruba SEZ Group is the only group in the private sector which has collaborated with Chinese, both in public and private sector, in various companies including Haier Group of China, Yulu, Royal Roads, Shandong Education CFMCC, TBEA China, Lit Cheong Power Engineering Limited, Shifeng, Foton, Real Force etc. Recently, Ruba SEZ Group has acquired majority share holdings of Burj Bank and Mr. Faisal Afridi has been appointed as one of the key board members of the Burj Bank.

In a chit chat with Pakistan and Gulf Economist (PAGE), Mr. Afridi shared his views about opportunities existed in Pakistan. He stated that population could prove to be constructive rather than destructive just by recasting our economic priorities. He said Pakistan has one of the largest labor and manpower resources in the world, due to its large population, that is the sixth largest in the world. Pakistan’s labor force is 57.2 million, making it the ninth largest country by available human workforce. About 43 percent of this labor is involved in agriculture, 20.3 percent in industry and the remaining 36.6 percent in other services. This human work force is the greatest asset of Pakistan that could be employed in international markets after appropriate training, in this way Pakistan could earn a huge amount of Foreign exchange which can revolutionize the current economic map.

Unfortunately, Mr. Afridi opined that skill development has been most neglected in Pakistan. Pakistan has neither been able to improve vocational and job skills nor could inculcate the creative and cognitive skills resulting in loss of output, unemployment and slow growth of living standards. Human resource development particularly improved skills impact significantly economic growth and the productivity levels of labor force.

With the advent of globalization, he said the growth would crucially depend on skills for producing goods and services of better quality at the competitive prices. The skill development results in mastery, resiliency, and core competencies in various fields. In Pakistan, he said, various factors have contributed towards the neglect which includes inward looking policies with little emphasis on quality products, focus on primitive technologies and choice of economic activities and the limited supply of skilled workers.

Mr. Afridi insisted that Pakistan should overcome skill gaps and scale up technical training to create innovative economies able to generate sustainable, inclusive growth.

According to him, skill development is one of the essential ingredients for Pakistan’s future economic growth as the country transforms into a diversified and internationally-competitive economy in which skill development is going to be the defining element in growth story.

To equip our massive labor force with modern skills, transformation of advanced technology from developed countries is the need of the hour. Export of quality manpower is the main driver in growth of remittances; Pakistan has the 9th largest labor force in the world.

Elaborating, Mr. Afridi said the structure of existing population of Pakistan shows that the country has 60 percent economically active population or work force which can prove to be a productive asset of the country if properly trained through skill development programs.

Countries in Asia are recalibrating their growth models to consolidate their positions in the global economy, in this economic shift , availability of highly skilled and technically qualified human resource base will prove to be a crucial determinant of success. In their quest to gain market shares in higher-order manufacturing and services, governments and other stakeholders are paying close attention to developing the requisite technical and scientific capabilities, he added.

He was of the view that imparting advanced training and skills to Pakistani labor in market-oriented fields would enhance labor capacity utilization and preference over untrained workforce. This trained workforce having a competitive edge could be preferably hired by countries that are expanding their manufacturing sector by relocating it in other viable countries. Developing skills of disadvantaged groups, including women, will bring substantial economic benefits and help reduce the growing income inequality in the region; there is an emergent need of more public-private partnership to increase the cost-efficiency, quality, and relevance of technical courses.

How the economic growth can be stimulated? This is the question which strikes on every policy maker and economist to find the answer. The answer of this question is lies in early attainment of latest knowledge and technology in order to catch-up with developed economies. The latest knowledge (technology) is essential for developing countries. It is true that almost all developing economies face the scarcity of technology. Technology is very essential to enhance the productivity factor of production and alternatively for economic growth. This is because the developing countries spend less on research and development while developed countries heavily spend on R&D so high concentration of technology is in the hand of developed counties, Mr. Afridi asserted.

For Pakistan, Mr. Afridi said this is the time to believe in the power of knowledge, skills and technology, all of which are considered as an important and endogenous determinant of Economic growth.

There is a need to equip secondary school and university graduates with employable skills that requires a shift from academically-oriented learning to demand-driven courses relevant to industry needs. This can be achieved through, for example, credible national qualification frameworks and certification systems and closer links amongst schools, universities, and technical and vocational education providers, he stressed.

According to him, China (The Iron Friend) is ready to assist Pakistan in empowering its labor force in accordance with the industrial requirements through the formation of collaborative Research institutes and capacity building organizations that would impart vocational training, Chinese work ethics including language and communication to the Pakistani labor.

China would establish such training institutes in Pakistan that would keep themselves in touch with the ongoing industrial trends, getting their input on the kind of workforce it requires, the institutes would be empowered enough to have machines, tools and technology used by textile, pharmaceuticals and surgical industries to ensure a well trained and competent labor force for future consumption.

By skill development and management Pakistan can attract manufacturing sectors of the developed countries that are relocating their manufacturing sectors to economically viable places. This phenomenon of industrial relocation is termed as “great industrial transfer”, which has brought in plenty of opportunities for Pakistan, Mr. Afridi said.

He further said Pakistan should formulate policies that create linkages between knowledge based education and technical skill based education because an individual need both knowledge and skills in order to be able to adjust to the changes in their economic environment and society.

The Government of Pakistan should take immediate steps to modify and empower existing vocational training Institutes like TEVTA. Currently, TEVTA enrolls on average 110,000-120,000 students in its technical training institutes, while the demand in the market is over one million. Government of Pakistan needs to invest in skilled workers to bridge the imbalances that occur due to inadequacy in human resource development.

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