SETTING RIGHT PRIORITIES

SHABBIR H. KAZMI
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Oct 25 - 31, 20
10

Some of the experts say that the key reason for all the woes of Pakistan is highly irrelevant education policy being followed by the successive governments. No policy could be prepared without first setting the national objectives, then come the policy parameters and implementation of the policy in letter and spirit.

Since education provides the basics of what has to be done and how, there is also a need to constantly review the curriculum and make it most contemporary. Keeping in view the three important components of Pakistan's GDP 1) agriculture, 2) manufacturing and 3) services, the education policy must have the relevant curriculum to prepare those who could manage these segments effectively and efficiently.

Pakistan's agriculture suffers from poor production and productively. Experts are of the view that agriculture output can be doubled through better crop management, precisely without bringing more area under cultivation. This includes sowing superior quality high yielding seeds, applying balanced nutrients and timely spray of insecticides and pesticides and timely irrigation water. To do all this farmers have to be educated and only expert botanists, entomologists, and biotechnologists can provide them the right information. Similarly, ongoing research on developing better varieties can be undertaken when educated persons of the relevant disciples are available.

Manufacturing sector also suffer from obsolescence. For example, many of the Pakistani spinning units has rotors operating at 5,000RPM, whereas the latest models are as fast at 15,000RPM. The fallout is lower productivity of the spinning facilities. Similarly, Pakistan produces cotton verities from which medium to fine counts of yarn could be produced. However, use of obsolete ginning facilities damage the fiber and only course counts of yarn are productivity. Lower value addition keeps cash flows of spinning units poor and they also fail in undertaking BMR. The net result is most of Pakistan's spinning units are highly inefficient and competing the global competitors become very difficult. The situation would have been very different had textile institutes provided education to meet the challenges of 21st century.

It may be true that present workforce manages to get the jobs done but situation would have very different had the things been done in the most appropriate manner.

Within the services sector two sub-sectors need highly educated professionals: banking and insurance. Business schools awarding specialisation in commercial banking and deployment of technology improved banking considerably but many of the areas remain unaddressed. It has been nearly a decade Islamic banking was introduced in the country but the obstacle is highly inadequate availability of Islamic bankers. Most of the professionals working in Islamic banks have come from conventional banking and have an entirely different mindsets. Similarly, Islamic banks are trying to emulate products being offered by the conventional banks. Growth of Islamic banking can be accelerated by producing the right type of bankers and developing right type of products. There is a perception that Islamic banks have given these products Arabic names but the DNA composition is same if not the identical. Only the professionals who have the right education and right expertise can remove this perception.

Over the years, it has also become evident that people of Pakistan suffer the most from natural calamities because of lack of risk mitigation. Lately it was said that conventional insurance was not Shariah compliant but despite commencement of operations by general and family Takaful operators the situation has not improved. However, introduction of crop insurance has lessened government's responsibilities to some extent. Last year financial institutions lent over Rs200 billion to farmers and this year the target is over Rs250 billion. The importance of crop insurance was highlighted in the recent floods. Those farmers and financial institutions, which have acquired the cover, are better off as compared to those who were uninsured. Having said that it is necessary to point out that the scheme should be termed 'credit insurance' rather than crop insurance. Insurance companies and financial institutions are working together to come up with 'comprehensive crop insurance' scheme. However, the objective cannot be achieved unless the country has professionals who have expertise in banking as well as insurance and also adequate knowledge of Pakistan's agriculture sector.

Computerisation or deployment of technology in the services sector has attained significant importance. Online banking, electronic transfers payments through credit/debit cards, ATMs and mobile banking would have not been possible without developing 'technology highways'. A large number of bankers, hardware and software engineers, developers, and operators are busy day and night to keep technology highway from hackers, cyber criminals, and outright cheaters. Joining of hands by different stakeholders is helping in attaining synergy, cost optimisation and above security of the system.

To produce graduates in right types of disciplines, there is a need for greater interaction of academician with trade and industry. It is encouraging that professionals working for multinational companies and top local corporations have joined the 'visiting faculty' of many business schools. Inviting people from trade and industry as guest speakers also helps in understanding the local environment. Most of the books are printed in USA and Europe, where the conditions are quite contrary to how the business is done in Pakistan. The interaction must grow by making it mandatory for the students to work for four to six weeks in the local business entities.