July 07 - 13, 2008

Balochistan is rich in natural resources. These natural resources however will have no impact on development if it is not matched with human resources that can tap this natural endowment. At the same time, the concept of good governance and a strong civil society needed for good governance is not imaginable without a population with a basic level of education. Therefore in any development strategy for the province, human resource development is a key factor. Institutional and human development is prerequisite for economic development of Balochistan-the country's most backward and least developed province.

The province has short of professionals and experts. It lacks the institutional capacity and human capital to utilize its vast natural resources. It actually needs competent doctors, engineers, bankers, entrepreneurs, businessmen, economic planners, architects, agriculturists, horticulturists, development economists, educationists, sociologists, academicians, research scholars, geologists, environmentalists, and experts in all its social and economic sectors to come at par with other provinces of Pakistan.

Today, Gwadar has got worldwide fame due to the construction of a mega deep-water port, which is of immense economic importance for its geo-strategic location. The province direly needs qualified and professional port staff for successful marketing of the port management to potential customers, building of export processing zone, trans-shipment and warehousing facilities, fixing of port tariffs for shipping companies in order to be competitive. Those who build up their capacities and develop technical skills would be fit to survive the future technological boom.

Ground realities call for a rational and long-term planning for human and institutional development and promotion of professional education in Balochistan. Former provincial government had conducted the multiple cluster indicator survey (MICS), which was the biggest survey in terms of its volume and diversity, ever conducted in the history of the province. A total of 10,680 households had been covered in the survey. The main strength of MICS was to provide effective results that simultaneously gauged a wide range of following indicators for social development; I) Economic status 2) Health and Nutrition Profile 3) Education level 4) Water availability and Hygiene/sanitation practices. The factors which have actually limited the scope for financing the social sector development and thus achieving the real development goals associated with MICS in Balochistan are the high debt-service burden, constrained fiscal space, the challenging social sector indicators, constraints in social service provision, and low current investments in the social sector. These factors justify need for higher investments in professional education and more efficiency in the social sector.

Investment in professional education will provide Balochistan the required professionals for the development of various sectors of local economy. The better human capital accoutered with professional education can be instrumental in increasing productivity with modern technology in all economic sectors. This will enhance industrial productivity and increase exportable output of the country. There is only one medical college at Quetta- Bolan medical college- in the province. The students from far flung areas have to settle at Quetta to become a medical professional. There is one engineering university at Khuzdar district in the province.

The private sector should also come forward to establish high-profile and quality institutions for professional education. The provincial capital Quetta witnessed a mushroom growth of private schools, language and computer institutes over a period of last ten years. The education in private sector was not limited to primary and secondary levels, it extended to higher levels with the opening of many private colleges and universities imparting education in Information Technology (IT), Management and Social Sciences. The establishment of the campuses of Preston University, Iqra University, Al-Kher University and Pearls' Institute in Quetta can be cited exemplarily.

While encouraging private sector, government should check the commoditization of education and ensure educational system free from discriminatory practices for all the citizens of Pakistan. Most of the private educational institutes have commercialized the professional education by charging high fees making it unaffordable for the common people. In other words, professional education has become a privilege of only rich, who can afford costly educational packages offered by the private institutions. These private institutions have developed a symbol of status by offering costly educational packages to aristocratic classes of the society.

Higher education should be the privilege granted only to competent, diligent and intelligent students. University of Balochistan announced the increase in fee for bachelor and master degrees in various disciplines in the year 2002. The rise was up to 300 to 400 percent. This drastic increase in fee caused protest in some circles. The former Vice Chancellor Justice Rasheed had given logical reasons for the rise in tuition fee of students receiving higher education in the campus. "Higher education is not the privilege claimed by any student," he contended. The decision was taken for enforcement of meritocracy. It was an initiation of Darwinism, "which means "survival of the fittest" in arena of higher and specialized education. In past, every student claimed to get government scholarship once admitted to the University. The practices of nepotism and favoritism had been rampant. The intelligent and deserving would remain deprived of enjoying the privilege of receiving higher education. This caused damage to meritocracy, prevalence of irregularities and acute dearth of research scholars in the campus. University administration for providing higher and quality education has set a selective screening criterion. This was purported to bring the real academicians, research scholars and individuals of high caliber to the fore.

The modern economists use the term "human capital" for education, health and other human capacities that can raise productivity. The analysis of investments in health and education is unified in human capital approach. The human capital approach focuses on the indirect ability of education and health to increase utility by increasing incomes. Balochistan government recently decided to convert the magnificent buildings of textile mills at Uthal and Bolan into technology academies where youth would be trained in various modern disciplines. The decision of setting up technology institutes and academies is good and timely and such institutes must be established in maximum districts of the province where youth would be trained in various modern disciplines.