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Politics & Policy
Yester — Today and tomorrow

 

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Yester-Today and Tomorrow
Pakistan enters 21st century
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Priorities for economic revival

By Sheikh Javaid, Chairman
EPZs Investors' Council
May 08 - 21, 2000

There is a famous proverb in English, which says, "Journey of a thousand miles begins with one step". Obviously a movement has to be initiated to accomplish an assignment or a project. Muslims of the Sub-Continent achieved independence after a very long and historic movement through hardship and sacrifice in the history of modern world.

The international community observed the largest migration and mass massacre in first half of the last century. It is true, that Muslims of the region were finally successful in establishing a homeland for themselves separate from Hindus of undivided India. The Hindus used to hold power and economy for themselves and did not want to share these privileges with Muslims. It is also true that by Pakistan's coming into being, Muslims also achieved the liberty of performing their religious obligations and activities freely. But unfortunately, soon after independence, majority of the people of this country forgot their objectives and commitment for which they had experienced considerable sufferings.

Most of the politicians, traders, feudal-lords and public servants etc., got involved in activities, which could bring them prosperity alright, but at the cost of national interest. The desire for becoming rich, overnight, gave birth to numerous social as well as public crimes. The nation as a whole soon became ignorant of the basic ideology and gradually lost the precious sense of national spirit. Lavishness, extravagance and abuse of power became the order of the day. An atmosphere of discrimination among common, as well as discouragement to the able was widely observed in every walk of life. This resulted in hatred and enmity amongst different sects instead of promoting a healthy brotherhood and friendly environment, which is a pre-requisite for a proud nation.

The policies framed by so-called 'experts' for a newly born country did not match the local resources, conditions and requirements. Moreover, much dependence was observed on short-term policies and adhocism. Nevertheless, the country's economy witnessed the ever-changing governments coupled with inconsistent policies during last half century. This added fuel to the fire. Both economy and stability of the country received severe setback.

Generally speaking, a country is known either as an importer or an exporter of certain products or produce. In our case, we export items like Cement, Sugar etc., in the industrial sector while Raw- Cotton and Vegetables in the agriculture sector for some years. However, it is disappointing that we have to import the same items in the following years because of the poor planning and mismanagement.

How can a country's economy prosper if still larger import bill has to be paid on same commodities? The gap between imports and exports of the country is widening to an alarming situation. The problem is that we lack to have a goal before us. Unless we have a target to achieve with firm determination as a nation, we cannot plan the course of our efforts and development of a mechanism for the achievement thereof. After all, we have to take One step to begin our Journey to the destiny. Nonetheless, that One step should be positive, visible and in the right direction too.

The following areas require immediate attention of the people at the helm of the affairs, which I, as a patriotic Pakistani have tried to highlight the Priorities For Economic Revival, through this article. Both problems and their possible solutions are humbly stated which will help speak our actions louder than words.

Education

We have entered into the new millennium hand-in-hand with illiteracy and poverty. After 52 years of independence, our literacy rate has rather dropped what to say of making any progress in the area. It is a matter of dis-appointment that we are spending only 3% of our National Income in this vital field which should have been at least 10% even in this critical economic scenario. It is an established fact that without awareness and knowledge we cannot keep a pace with the ever-flying time, nor we can face the challenges of the modern world. The last century witnessed remarkable inventions and discoveries such as exploring the Moon, development of Computer and of course certain genius Theories etc. The credit of these remarkable achievements goes to various countries of the world whereas; we have entered into the new century without any notable contribution at our end. On the contrary, it is sad to note that in this era of unbelievable inventions and discoveries, we are only preparing our new generation for repairing Radio and TV to meet both ends. Much has been said and written on this burning issue of the country but we should be ashamed of ourselves for turning our schools into stables. Are we not being cruel by keeping horses at places where our children should be for gaining knowledge? The Chief of the Consular services at US Consulate General, said in a seminar recently, and I quote " Start Now-Teach All". Unquote, the situation in education sector has worsened to the extent that we are being asked by the foreigners to rectify condition in this area. It is a matter of great concern that since independence, every government announced lot of facilities and incentives for the betterment of education personnel and institutions but unfortunately no significant improvement in the conditions of education related people and organizations was observed. I strongly feel that an unsatisfied teacher cannot produce a brilliant Pakistani. Moreover, for the last 52 years we have been spending billions of rupees on constructing new school buildings. People of Pakistan are unable to understand as to why the schools can not be established in the buildings of mosques, which by the grace of Almightv Allah exist in thousands in number countrywide. Is there any harm using 'Baitullah' in spreading education to our nation? Time between 'Fajr and Zuhr prayers' can be managed easily for the purpose thus saving billions to our treasury in the light of recent historical judgement of the honorable. Supreme Court, a 'Riba Free' banking system should be developed. A considerable number of personnel will be required to run these interest free banking units in the country. The mosque educational institutions can play a significant role in producing graduates educated in a religious environment groomed to establish and promote interest free banking beside regular education. Some other suggestions for the betterment in the area of education are.

a) Compulsory education upto middle class.

b) Implementation of common syllabus throughout the country in order to eliminate 'class discrimination'.

c) Replacement of backward system of yearly examination with 'Semester System' which is followed internationally.

d) Management of every government institution by Board of Directors which includes two members from the private sector. In a recent statement the Chief Executive of Pakistan General Pervez Musharraf has very generously announced funding of an additional amount of Rs. 7.0 billion for revival of economy of the country. This handsome amount is of course a great sacrifice by our Armed Forces for their fellow countrymen I appeal to the Chief Executive that orders be issued that at least 50% of this amount should be spent on education alone.

Kalabagh Dam

Lot has been said on this vital issue of national bearing. The project is of paramount importance for the good of common of our country especially in the present critical economic scenario. Much to our regret that the matter has been made controversial and propagated as such by a lobby which does not like Pakistan to prosper. The propaganda has unfortunately influenced the innocent minds of a section of patriotic Pakistanis in the province of Sindh and NWFP. According to technical reports however, the Dam when operative will benefit all the four provinces of the country. As a result of negative interpretation, the project has been delayed considerably. On the other hand, the current water levels at both Mangla and Tarbela Dams have dropped to an alarming point. Nevertheless, even with the normal levels, the existing Dams are insufficient for irrigation and power generation of which the country is facing an acute scarcity. Today, water and power are the two essential raw materials for Agriculture & Industry. It is therefore essential that consensus over this issue is obtained without further loss of time and the Kalabagh Dam be initiated and completed immediately. The civil governments could not succeed in overcoming the opposition on this subject. However, the present regime has resources to accomplish this Project of National importance. The dream of Self-reliance in the field of agriculture cannot come true without it. So following the famous Phrase 'Now or Never ', it is urged upon the authorities to proceed to the target with the devotion it has to its credit.

Development in Balochistan

Balochistan is a great province of Pakistan and a land of ancient civilization. It has been neglected since independence of our beloved country. The province of Balochistan is the largest in area and smallest in population. The vast and barren land of the province should have been utilized for setting-up Industrial Units long before. On the contrary, our policy makers were busy establishing industries on fertile and Agriculture-based lands in the province of Sindh and Punjab. As a result of this, industrial waste, chemicals and other environment-pollution destroyed a considerable area of land. This could have been used for improvement in agricultural progress instead of waste of precious agricultural land itself by setting-up industrial units there. These agricultural lands are already facing the threat of water-logging beside other calamities. We cannot atford to have a 'Fertile Crescent' in this part of the world. We have been gifted with a vast land in Balochistan to establish industry without the hazard of damaging valuable crops. I would further suggest that a '5 year Tax Holiday' be announced for the new industrial units in Balochistan so that the local as well as foreign investors are attracted to invest here. Secondly, we must concentrate on early completion of the deep-sea port at Gwader. The project, like many others, has also passed through controversies resulting delay in implementation. The lobby, which is creating hurdles in establishment of permanent peace in Afghanistan, is the same, which does not like Gwader to emerge as a commercially viable Port in the region. It is said that history of Pakistan would have been different if a deep-seaport was completed at Gwader immediately after its association with Pakistan and even the debacle of East Pakistan would not have happened. An early completion of a commercially developed deep-water port in Balochistan is the need of the hour. Beside serving the country, Gwader port will cater to the requirements of the whole region covering Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Sultanate of Oman and the Central Asian States (CAS) thus giving a boost to the national economy. Moreover, the Karachi/Gwader and Gwader/Ratto Dairo highway when developed and upgraded will pass through Turbat, Khuzdar and Shahdad Kot. This would provide much easier transportation of goods and people between the provinces of Pakistan. It would be interesting to note that improvement of Gwader/Quetta road will result in reducing about 200 KM of distance. This would again be an added attraction to the local as well as foreign industrial investors planning to invest in the province of Balochistan. Exploration of Mineral Resources and establishment of Fisheries and Fish Industry should also be given proper attention. Again, with the establishment of Livestock Farming, the self-sufficiency in meat requirement of the country will be achieved beside export to neighbouring rich countries. The province in question already enjoys a lead in fruit production and produces over 50% of the country's total crop of apricots, grapes, apple, dates and almonds. As soon as polishing, grading and packing facilities are improved, the province can become a significant foreign exchange earner. Recently, a Saudi firm has decided to invest about 60 million US dollars for setting-up an export oriented unit for producing food grains and vegetables in Balochistan in Naseerabad Division. Similarly, other regional and international investors can be invited to invest in the province I am sure that if we are be able to take these measures, the poor of Balochistan will also see the fruits of their sacrifices spreaded over years.

Reconstruction of Export Processing Zones Authority (EPZA)

We all know that maintenance of an existing unit is more important than construction of a new one. It is a tragedy that the bureaucracy in Pakistan has always been interested in setting-up new organizations/institutions whereas no proper attention has ever been given to Re-construction and/or maintainance of the existing ones. That is why the number of sick units in our country has been increasing day by day. The authorities simply forgot the famous idiom 'a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush'.

Export Processing Zones Authority was established about two decades ago. The first unit was launched at Karachi, which is called Karachi Export Processing Zone (KEPZ). The prime objectives for setting-up the EPZ were.

a) To invite foreign Investment.

b) Foreign Exchange Earnings.

c) Transfer of Hi-tech. and

d) To create job openings for local labour. In anticipating achievements in above objectives, huge investment was made in the shape of development of infrastructure and related essentials. An attractive package of incentives was also framed and offered to investors. Unfortunately, majority of these objectives could not be achieved, mainly because of mismanagement, corruption and abuse of incentives by a few. As a result, even an area of about 500 acres only could not be utilized in full in twenty years' time. Due to the situation at KEPZ, some of the investors including overseas Pakistanis, soon realized the conditions and gave a halt to their operations, closed their factories and said good-bye to KEPZ. A few genuine investors are however, still working and are trying their level best to give boost to this declining unit. In fact they are the ones whose efforts have kept KEPZ still alive. The miserable conditions at KEPZ have also been reported by print-media from time to time. In short, KEPZ has not been able to prove itself as a model EPZ. KEPZ is not only becoming economically un-viable but has also become a reason for lack of interest by foreign investments at other proposed EPZs in different parts of the country. Circles of Trade & Industry suggest that a gross Re-construction of EPZA be initiated to avoid a complete collapse of the Unit. There is also a suggestion that each EPZ unit be managed by a Managing Director and not by the Chairman directly, like other State owned enterprises. This will obviously help the management make quick decisions in the larger interest of EPZ and would of course help the Chairman discharging his responsibilities at the same time. I suggest the concerned authorities to constitute an Advisory Council within the Ministrv of Industries, comprising of members from private sector who should be responsible for Re-construction of KEPZ. The proposed council should also be inducted for establishing new EPZ units in the country. The second EPZ unit however, is suggested to be developed at Gwader for a number of reasons. Gwader's Seaport, Airport and its peculiar geographical situation are salient attractions for the prospective investors.

Tourism

Tourism is yet another sector, which has not been given due attention since independence. People who travel internationally know as to how much foreign exchange is being earned by the western world and even by the Far Eastern countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong etc., in the field of tourism. No doubt, world is full of natural beauty. But people including myself who have travelled a lot within the country beside travelling abroad will agree with me for claiming some of the landscapes and scenic points of Pakistan as much better than any place in the world. These spots if developed properly, can fetch huge amount of foreign exchange from tourists. The famous Kaghan Valley, Gilgit, Chitral Valley, Kafirstan and areas surrounding Silk Route are really gift of Allah to the mankind beside Murree, Nathia Gali, Patriata and other hill-stations in the region. These God gifted areas can play a vital role in earning foreign exchange provided modern amenities are developed and made available to the visitors. It is a matter of deep concern for every Pakistani that after more than half a century of independence, we have not been able to provide the basic facilities i.e. Gas, Electricity, Roads, telephone etc., to some of these most beautiful tourist attractions in Pakistan. The work of development of tourism should be initiated without further delay. Tourism development is not just constructing an un-manned 'rest-house' or running just an old fashioned restaurant at Far-flung areas. People of Pakistan are surprised as to why significant improvement in this vital field has not been achieved when millions have been claimed for expenditure by the concerned department every year. Time has come that the people who have been given responsibilities by the government must work sincerely and steps taken by them in the area of tourism development should be visible even by a common Pakistani. Another suggestion is to develop Parks in the country. These include Amusement Safari and Theme Parks. Such parks are also successfully operating in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and even in India. International community should be invited to invest in this sector who can bring technology and finance on 'Build Own and Operate' or similar attractive terms. I suggest that the barren lands lying idle in the provinces of Balochistan and Sindh be converted into revenue earning projects by establishing these parks in the country. This again, is an area where investments can bring considerable returns including foreign exchange for Pakistan

Micro Credit Scheme / Bank for the Poor

The present government has reportedly announced a plan to float a financial scheme to help the poor. It is a thought in the right direction but as far as its modus operandi is concerned, I would rather opine that establishment of a full-fledged bank would cost too much. As an alternative, branches of National Bank of Pakistan, which are spreaded country wide, should be used for the purpose. Provision of a separate counter within the branch can deliver the goods It is worth mentioning here that the previous governments launched certain schemes such as 'Loans for the youth, 'Prime Minister's Public Transport Scheme' etc., etc. The history of Micro Credit Schemes is as old as 1970 onwards. However, due to improper management, the schemes failed soon after their commencement for obvious reasons. It is therefore needed that before implementing the proposed 'Bank for the Poor', detailed and authenticated feasibility report be obtained. All loans should be released strictly on merit. This will ensure secured financing unlike in the past when loans were granted against fictitious and exaggerated values of Guarantees and Securities.