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Youth education and empowerment key to shape better future; Pakistan economy can perk up with taking more measures

Interview with Dr Khusro Iqbal – Expert in Human Resources

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During his professional and personal interactions usually he was given a feeling by those with whom he interacts that they consider him a highly caring, law abiding and civilized person who is also an empathetic, experienced, motivated and result-oriented human resources professional.

His, to-date, career accomplishments establish that he has always successfully contributed in the strategic business partnering, organizational and employee development, talent management, internal communications across functional lines and implementation of human resources information systems. He got opportunity to show demonstrated leadership and analytical skills with a strong sense of customer service and creative flair, at various levels, in service and manufacturing industries.

He got an opportunity to work in three continents, namely; Asia; Africa and Australia. He has broad but successful experience in both local and international good HR practices. He widely traveled and has experience of working with diverse cultures. His peers and social circles usually compliment him by saying that he naturally possesses distinctive ability to lead and balance strategic business initiatives with employee advocacy.

PAGE: WHAT MUST BE DONE WHICH HAS NOT BEEN DONE OVER THE PERIOD OF LAST 70 YEARS FOR THE BETTERMENT OF PAKISTAN?

DR KHUSRO IQBAL: In my opinion the task of nation building in Pakistan would not be achieved without an educated and skilled Pakistani manpower. Over last many years, since independence, efforts to increase enrollment and literacy were limited. Accordingly, our government must seriously focus to improve educational standards in Pakistan which felt missing for the last 70 years.

It is really pathetic to learn through the statistics revealed by ‘The Asia Foundation Basic Education Project, Pakistan’ that half a century down the road, Pakistan remains a largely illiterate country. Close to two-thirds of the population and over 80 percent of rural women are still illiterate. More than a quarter of children between the ages of five and nine do not attend school. And for those who do, the quality of education is seriously wanting. While conducting a recent sample study on educational standards in Pakistan they disclosed that when they gave some arithmetic and Urdu language tests to school children of Grade three in Lahore only 33 percent of students in government schools passed both the tests. The same test when was given to same grade students, outside Lahore, in 5 districts of South Punjab they found that only 12 percent of the students in government schools passed both the tests. The same test administered to the teachers teaching both in Lahore and south Punjab did not elicit an encouraging result either.

Consequently, I am of the opinion that a massive Non-Formal Basic Education Program on a war footing to be started to provide economical and expeditious access to all the 5.5 million primary school age (5 to 9 years old) children who are at present out of school. Also those between 10 to14 year old adolescents and youth who have missed primary education must be given a chance through a crash condensed course to enable them to complete primary education cycle in 2 to 3 years.

We all are aware that any country starts to grow when its imports become lesser than their exports. The cash inflow increases and the cash outflow decreases, for that purpose major production should be made at the country and should not be imported from the foreign countries. Production of things requires the technical knowhow of the processes and the equipment because without it the production cannot be done.

If we talk about Pakistan we find that we are lacking in the technical education and are far behind in producing goods as compared to other neighboring countries, which are having similar challenges accordingly we are relying heavily on the imports. To enhance our production, we need our people and our youth to indulge themselves in the technical field so that they can come forward and control and enhance the production department and the production capability of our country so that in result we can reduce our imports and increase our exports so there should be a positive difference between both the two cash flows.

As far as Pakistan is concerned it is very much crucial and significant that the Pakistani youth and the upcoming students capitalize to the situational demand and adopt the opportunity to play their role in the upbringing of the economy of our country. In that respect the initial stage is to impart the awareness. The utmost step is to make people aware regarding the deficit and the necessity of this field and how they can contribute to the national cause. If the awareness is imparted than the people will be attracted automatically. The next major phase is to establish technical institutes and schools, which can facilitate the students with quality and productive information and education.

There is no doubt that the upcoming time is of technology and for the survival in the competitive world Pakistan has to bring this change and mind shift to become a developed country and to stand besides many developed countries of the world on the large scale.

PAGE: HOW WOULD YOU COMMENT ON THE POTENTIAL OF PAKISTANI YOUTH?

DR KHUSRO IQBAL: I firmly believe that Pakistan is full of youth with potential, which should be fully utilized for the development of the country’s economy and achieve other national goals.

An army can have the best weapons in the world, but if it doesn’t use them properly and effectively it loses the war. The same is true for our youth and it would be unwise to deny the fact that our youth in a large percentage of our population (66% approx.) and that it is full of talented people who have great potential. Yet, the problem remains the same if they and their potential isn’t used and channelized effectively then there won’t not only be anything to gain but also there would be much to lose.

The youth of this country is undoubtedly its biggest asset and it is up to all of us to make sure it serves its purpose in the best way possible. The youth should not be left despair but to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead and to resolve their capability of meeting those challenges, a capability, which is more than adequate only when combined with hard work and patience. I see light at the end of the tunnel but only if we have the will and patience to pass through.

PAGE: YOUR VIEWS ON THE STANDARDS OF EDUCATION IN PAKISTAN?

DR KHUSRO IQBAL: Education is the base of every society that makes people civilized and put them on the right track of progress. An educated nation always makes the country distinctive in the world and put it on the road of success in all fields of life. The standard of education is the most important thing that helps people to remain updated with the latest developments in all subjects and areas of life

For me education means training to be successful and productive in life. I consider that main aim of education is threefold – physical, mental, and moral development of human personality. We find a constant fall in the standard of education in Pakistan. There are various reasons behind the problem. Everyone is equally responsible, the government, teachers, parents and students. Again, in Pakistan, unfortunately the people have been introduced the double-standard of education. The one, which prevails throughout the country is related to public sector and the other is an outcome of private investors.

Based on the facts, I opine that the standard of education in Pakistan is not up to the mark as we are far behind to the advanced nations of the world that remain updated and make amendments in their academic courses with the advancement of the modern age.

In Pakistan, the quality of education has a declining trend. Shortage of teachers and poorly equipped laboratories have resulted in the outdated curriculum that has little relevance to present day needs. In Pakistan, it has become essential to review and update the courses at college and university level and ‘research’ should be made a compulsory part of the academic course. We are lacking far behind in research in almost all areas of life, which is a result of the old fashioned academic courses and lack of research.

PAGE: YOUR VIEWS ON THE PROGRESS OF INDUSTRY OVER THE PERIOD OF LAST 70 YEARS IN PAKISTAN?

DR KHUSRO IQBAL: Industry refers to that sector of economy which is related with manufacturing and production of different products. Industrial sector is of great importance for economic development of Pakistan being of great importance for economic development of country. It is historical proven that countries with strong industrial sector have showed more economic growth and development. The industrial sector has shown improvement in national income and promoted living standard of population.

Although in Pakistan during last 70 years we have established textile industry, defense industry, sports industry, auto mobile industry, telecom industry, fashion industry, cement industry, fertilizer industry, surgical industry, oil & gas industries, sugar industry, chemical industry, sports good manufacturing industry etc.

However historically, Pakistan’s textile industry and clothing sector has always been a major contributor to the foreign exchange earner and still contributes.

The government is privatizing large-scale parastatal units, and the public sector accounts for a shrinking proportion of industrial output, while growth in overall industrial output (including the private sector) has accelerated. The current government policies aim to diversify the country’s industrial base and bolster export industries and that is why the Pakistan industrial sector is the second largest individual sector of the economy accounting for 25 percent of the GDP.

PAGE: YOUR VIEWS ON THE ECONOMY OF PAKISTAN:

DR KHUSRO IQBAL: Recently, while collecting data for one of our upcoming board meeting to convince the board to increase investment inside Pakistan instead of going to other African or South East Asian countries to establish factories there, it was cool to know that the economy of Pakistan is the 24th largest in the world in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP), and 43rd largest in terms of nominal gross domestic product.

Pakistan has a population of over 190 million (the world’s 6th-largest), giving it a nominal GDP per capita of $1,429, which ranks 140th in the world. However, Pakistan’s undocumented economy is estimated to be 36 percent of its overall economy, which is not taken into consideration when calculating per capita income.

Pakistan is a developing country and is one of the next eleven, the eleven countries that, along with the BRICS, have a potential to become one of the world’s large economies in the 21st century.

I was overjoyed when I came to know that in October 2016, the IMF Chief Christine Lagarde has confirmed in her economic assessment in Islamabad that Pakistan’s economy is ‘out of crisis’.

It was very encouraging to know as well that the World Bank predicts that by 2018, Pakistan’s economic growth will increase to a ‘robust’ 5.4 percent due to greater inflow of foreign investment, namely from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

According to the World Bank, poverty in Pakistan fell from 64.3 percent in 2002 to 29.5 percent in 2014. Pakistan’s fiscal position continues to improve as the budget deficit has fallen from 6.4 percent in 2013 to 4.3 percent in 2016. The country’s improving macroeconomic position has led to Moody’s upgrading Pakistan’s debt outlook to ‘stable’.

Despite being facing political and financial problems, at the moment, the Pakistan’s economy still has the potential to recover and revive but to do that serious amounts of efforts are required at both the governmental and investors level.

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