PROS AND CONS OF INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT

When the government is concentrating on industrialization and opening new industrial parks, it should not lose sight of agriculture as both are virtually inter-dependant.

M.R. CHAUDHRY
Feb 26 - Mar 04, 2007

President Musharraf, while delivering inaugural address at the Sundar Industrial Estate, 25 kilometers off Lahore, had assured that the establishment of industrial estates would help bring prosperity as well as causing an end to poverty, violence, extremism and terrorism in the country.

"This would create atmosphere conducive for foreign investment and would enable Pakistan to export its products, commodities and goods to Central Asian States." He confidently stated that the economic position of Pakistan is very sound and strong and that the government is facing great challenges including that of poverty and unemployment.

While laying the foundation stone of M-3 Industrial Estate, the President said that this country's largest industrial estate is a public-private partnership. He assured: "Our policies are aiming at reduction in poverty and elimination of unemployment". He hoped that this industrial estate would play a pivotal role in boosting the country's economy and this gigantic project spread over an area of 4500 acres of land would generate employment opportunities for four million people.

If the state of Pakistan is analyzed in this perspective, our government is also attaching first priority to economic development and economic stability. By the Grace of Almighty Allah Pakistan is well possessed of all the necessary resources, opportunities and strategic geographical location. The need of the hour is to use our potentials in the right earnest.

Discussing the subject, the President pointed out that bureaucracy would not be permitted to impede the speed of foreign investment. But, as we observe, till this time the bureaucracy of Pakistan has been playing a negative role as a speed-breaker in the national development and foreign investment. Making the government machinery responsive to the national aspirations in itself is a great challenge. Curbing corruption, ending procrastination and other mal-practices is necessary for making the government machinery pro-business and investment-friendly.

President Musharraf reiterated that work on mega projects for electricity generation was going on. Unless and until mega projects like KBG and Ghazi Brotha, for irrigation water supply and power generation are completed and commissioned, shortage of electricity would remain a constant problem throughout the country. Load-shedding, declared and undeclared power shut-downs, as usual, would go on unabated. Gas supply to power plants and industrial sector as well as domestic consumers, especially in the winter, is also a serious problem without which no headway in these sectors is possible. IPI project is now a hot subject in the media. For quite sometime tri-partite negotiations and some times only bilateral negotiations between Pakistan and Iran have been going on.

However, there is a long way yet to traverse for this project to materialize. America has already shown its reservation on this proposal. It is, however, a sorrowful state of affairs that our planners and policy makers do not seem to be serious about utilizing abundant coal reserves available in the country, especially in Thar coal-fields (Sindh). Periodical ripples appear in the newspapers regarding use of coal for electricity generation and then a calm prevails for long. People feel disappointed on the government's apathy to use this country's wealth for generation of urgently needed electricity by installing coal based power plants, which is comparatively a more economic proposition as compared to oil-based thermal power plants. Coal can rescue us from importing costly oil and gas from Iran or anywhere else. "Why we should not use our resources of indigenous coal" is beyond anybody's comprehension. Apprehensions are there that either it is because of foreign pressure or the influence of the powerful lobby of oil and gas companies. We should use wisdom, courage and patriotism in making decisions independently in our national interest instead of succumbing to foreign pressure or falling prey to powerful vested interests. It must serve as an eye opener for our policy makers that the United States of America, the world's most developed country, is producing 52 percent of its electricity from coal, while China, the fast emerging economy of the world, is meeting 78 per cent of its energy needs through coal, followed by India and Australia meeting 77 per cent of their power requirement through coal.

Other factors, which require our undivided attention is peace, tranquility and good governance which, speaking realistically, is a rare commodity. From destructive activities in NWFP to insecurity in Balochistan, the government owns the larger responsibility. Law and order situation in the country is not enviable, by any stretch of imagination. That's why the local investors feel shy to make any investment. Foreign investors would naturally need more security and guarantee to save their investments.

When we talk of heavy industry, we cannot skip the essentials and pre-requisites of additional quantum of electricity, gas or coal, telephone, water supply, roads and means of communication. Merely importing machinery and equipment into the country and installing them on the ground would not serve the purpose. "How to run it" is the main thing. Our electricity shortfall is increasing at the rate of 8 to 10 per cent annually. When we would be installing more and more industries, consumption of power would further escalate and shortfall would further shoot up unless we do something concrete at the earliest to substantially increase our power generation.

One thing that this scribe feels must not skip the attention of the high-ups is that when the government is concentrating on industrialization and opening new industrial parks in the country, they should not lose sight of agriculture. An equilibrium must be maintained between agriculture and industry. One sector should not be prioritized and patronized at the cost of the other or else we are apt to lose more than what we would gain. In this connection a reference must be made to the President's point of view that in the past the policies focused on the textile sector, which accounts only for six per cent of the world's trade while engineering goods share is 61 per cent. Here we must also take into account the fact that textile mills and other agro-based industries in Pakistan mostly depend on agricultural products as their raw material like cotton is used for producing yarn and other textile products. We should, therefore, keep all aspects of agriculture and industry in view to avoid a possible setback to one sector or the other. In Pakistan both agriculture and industry are mostly inter-dependant.