THE EDUCATIONAL DIVIDE
Shaukat Aziz has made a vow to the nation to make Pakistan an emerging Asian tiger
By ABDUL QUAYYUM KHAN KUNDI, USA
Oct 25 - 31, 2004
Before the fall of Soviet Union the world was divided in three groups. The capitalist West formed first world. Second world included countries from the socialist East or rather allies of Soviet Union. And the third world included countries that were not part of either first or second world. But eventually the phrase Third world became synonymous for countries in the poorest regions of the world — Central and South America, Africa, the Middle East and many countries in Asia. Pakistan, unfortunately, is still part of third world after nearly 60 years of its existence. During these 60 years many countries have migrated themselves to a respectable title of tigers of Asia that include countries like India, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea and China.
First world countries that are also called G8 include France, Germany, Japan, United States, United Kingdom, Italy, Canada and recently Russia.
GDP PER CAPITA (US$)
EXPORT PER CAPITA (US$)
Source: Government statistics at the end of 2003. Approximate figures.
It is an interesting point to note that most of these G8 countries suffered severe natural or imposed calamities in last 50 years. Germany was devasted by Second World War. Its people were at the lowest ebb of self-esteem and its industries were in tatters. Japan suffered not only the strike of two atomic bombs but also natural disaster of Kobe earthquake in 1990s. Italy being part of German coalition also suffered severely in Second World War. United Kingdom lost most of its colonies after the end of Second World War most notably India and Pakistan. Russia, former Soviet Union, was divided into 13 independent states in 1989. US economy was at a standstill after the events of 9/11 in 2001. But despite these difficult situations these countries continued on the path of progress and prosperity.
Pakistan, in terms of land area and population, is larger than many members of G8 countries namely France, Germany, Japan, United Kingdom, and Italy. But in economic and social terms Pakistan is way behind with a GDP of US$ 318 billion or US$ 2100 per capita. Exports of US$ 11.7 billion or US$ 73.5 per capita.
The question is why are we so far behind the developed countries in realizing the full potential of our country.
The answer lies both in history and management of domestic affairs in these countries. Historically G8 countries have democratic tradition for an average 125 years. The youngest democracy in G8 is Japan, which established and strengthened its political institutions after the American occupation at the end of Second World War. Almost all of these countries are secular governments considering religion as a personal matter for people. Local administrations are divided in large number of provinces or municipalities. This is probably the reason there are less ethnic tensions between various parts of these countries. On average over 75% of these countries populations live in urban centers, which commensurate with the fact that most of these rely on industries rather agricultural as a main source of national income. Most of these countries have ethnic diversity for instance Canada is split in English and French dominant areas. United Kingdom has Scottish, Irish and English dominant areas. Similar ethnic diversity exists in USA, Russia and Germany. Japan is the most ethnically cohesive country with over 97% population sharing same ethnicity. Education standards are also very high in these countries with over 90% of literate populations. Economically they pursue varying degrees of socialistic and capitalistic principles. French being highly socialistic as compared to US whose economy is based purely on capitalistic principles.
After taking the oath of office as the Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr. Shaukat Aziz has made a vow to the nation to make Pakistan an emerging Asian tiger. Any promise made to the nation has to be reflected in the actions taken by the government. Current allocation of Rs. 13 billion for education, or Rs. 81 per capita is too low. Education should be the top priority of the government as without a skilled labor force the hopes of achieving growth is like living in a fool's paradise. Besides allocating money for education we also need to revamp the whole educational system to produce a citizenry that is not only familiar with theories of science and technology but also understand its social, moral and ethical responsibility. The effects of today's education will be felt over a decade so any further delay would push us further back among the nations of the world.
This educated labor force would need opportunities in industrial, services and agricultural sectors of the economy. Our high reliance on textiles as earner of foreign exchange and creator of jobs has created an economic risk for the country. Fall in cotton crop, for any reason, translates into less export earnings and closure of plants resulting in loss of employment. The incentives offered to textile discourage capitalists to invest in new industries. Planning commission should take a fresh look at our resources including labor and geological as well as analyze international trends in terms of shifting of industries/manufacturing from high to low cost countries. Based on this analysis we need to reconstitute our industrial and economic policies to attract higher foreign direct investment in sectors where we provide highest competitive advantage to the investor as well as higher return in investment. We are neighbor to the two fastest growing economies in the world namely India and China. These countries provide us not only an opportunity to export our merchandise but also to become a downstream manufacturing center for some products. We also need to learn from their experience in embarking on economic reforms despite huge social and political hurdles.
Although it is widely believed that political stability is important to achieve economic success but Japan is an example where governments have changed in quick succession but still the economic progress was not hampered. The key to economic success is adoption of permanent economic policies regardless of who is in the government. Our politicians should realize that economic prosperity is as much in their interest as it is in the interest of a common man. They can continue to haggle over cabinet positions but do not reverse the economic policies of their predecessors. There has been talk of providing constitutional cover to economic policies, which will be a right step.