INTERVIEW: PROF. DR. SHAFIQ-UR-REHMAN

CHAIRMAN DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMICS UNIVERSITY OF KARACHI

RIZWANA BASHIR
Nov 09 - 15, 2009

Prof. Dr. Shafiq-ur-Rehman is the chairman, Department of Economics, University of Karachi since 2003, and is in his second tenure. Initially he was appointed as chairman of the department during 1999-2002. He is a seasoned and visionary economist and has an in-depth sight on current economic scenarios. Recently, this scribe has conducted an interview with him to share his valuable thoughts with the readers. Following are the excerpts of the interview.

Q. TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF.

I did my first masters from the University of Karachi. In 1986 I did my MS from University of Waterloo, Canada and resumed my job at University of Karachi as assistant professor in 1988. I became associate professor in 1997 and professor in 2001. I was awarded PhD in 2003-04 by the university. My doctorate was in the area of HRM (collective bargaining and wage determination in Pakistan). I am attached as a member of advisory board to various research journals including "Business Review" of IOBM and "Journal of Social Sciences" Faculty of Arts University of Karachi.

Q. YOU HAVE BEEN SELECTED THRICE AS CHAIRMAN OF THE DEPARTMENT. WHAT CONTRIBUTIONS HAVE YOU MADE SO FAR?

In addition to the smooth running of the departmental activities I have taken an initiative to launch MA-economics and finance which is employment oriented programme. Now internet facility is available for the faculty and students of the department. During my tenure MS programme was started at the department and number of research students is increasing day by day.

Q. WHAT IS THE CURRENT STATE OF RESEARCH IN THE DEPARTMENT?

As far as my faculty is concerned, all of them are enrolled in MPhil and PhD programmes. My department has four PhD faculty members to supervise the research activities of the students. One of our faculty members is enrolled in PhD programme at PIDE Islamabad. Now university has started regular MS programme at the department of economics and it is my earnest wish that more and more students could be indulged into research through this programme.

Q. ARE YOU SATISFIED WITH THE CURRENT CURRICULUM OF ECONOMICS? DOES IT FULFILL THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE 21ST CENTURY?

I strongly believe in updating the curriculum time to time. HEC is doing a wonderful job in the area of curriculum development. We have updated the curriculum of economics in 2008 recently and in 2006 as per the recommendations of the HEC. The existing curriculum of economics is state of the art and updated to face the economic challenges of the 21st century.

Q. WHAT IS THE CURRENT STATE OF PAKISTAN'S ECONOMY IN YOUR OPINION AND WHAT POSSIBLE REASONS HAVE BROUGHT THE ECONOMY IN THIS STATE?

Basically Pakistan economy is under the pressure of debt which is around $50 billion. This leads to fluctuations in growth rate. All macroeconomic indicators are also unstable because of the same reason. Foreign exchange reserves are also not stable because they mainly are based on unreal factors. Uncertainty is the main cause behind all policy failures. Fiscal and monetary policies must be stable. Inflation and unemployment rate is high due to instability in political scenario. High interest rate is not a healthy sign for private investments. Government spending on non development expenditures is also exerting pressure on the economy.

Q. WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON THE CURRENT ECONOMIC POLICIES OF THE GOVERNMENT?

The tax to GDP ratio is very low. We need this ratio high enough to finance investment. Labour management relations are totally undesirable; collective bargaining system is not working properly that is why labour productivity is low.

Q. IN YOUR VIEW HOW PAKISTAN CAN SAVE ITSELF FROM ADVERSE AFFECTS OF GLOBAL ECONOMIC SLUMP?

Actually financial system of our country is not linked strongly with the global financial system that is why we are less affected by the global recession.

Q. WHAT ARE YOUR RECOMMENDATIONS TO REDUCE POVERTY IN PAKISTAN?

In a long run economic growth must be focused on growth of labour force with special reference to technical knowledge building and skill development. Capital formation is necessary which is only possible through increase in savings. Technology and industrial labor relations must be improved to increase the harmony between entrepreneur and labour force. Agricultural sector must be developed as main contributor to GDP. Textile sector must be given more importance because vital segment of our exports are dependent on this sector.

Developments in small and medium enterprises will not only alleviate the poverty but also support the economic indicators as well. As it is very difficult to finance mega projects in the current economic scenario therefore, government should encourage microfinance to promote self employment.

Q. UNIVERSITIES PLAYED GREAT ROLE IN THE CREATION OF PAKISTAN. WHAT THE UNIVERSITIES IN PAKISTAN OR FOR THAT MATTER UNIVERSITY OF KARACHI DID FOR THE SOCIO- ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL STABILITY OF THE COUNTRY?

Basically universities have a very important role to play in the development and stability of the country. Universities should focus on research and development to bring reforms in political, social and financial systems of the country and existing tax structure in Pakistan.

As far as economics department is concerned, we organize research workshops and seminars to enlighten our students on various issues. Our students of MS are given the topics of macro concerns like fiscal policy, monetary policy and human resource management along with Islamic economics.

Q. DO YOU AGREE WITH THE PRICE AND QUALITY OF EDUCATION IN PAKISTAN OR YOU WOULD SUGGEST SOME CORRECTIVE MEASURES FOR SPREADING THE LIGHT OF KNOWLEDGE TO THE GRASS ROOT LEVEL SINCE EDUCATION IS THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT OF EVERY CITIZEN.

Education means investment in human capital which is necessary not only at higher level but also at grass root level. In my opinion primary education must be given attention by the government. It means it should be free for all and quality wise comparable to international standards.

Q. WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE TO THE STUDENTS OF ECONOMICS?

Global economies are reflecting the signs of recovery as current macroeconomic indicators have shown good signs and will ultimately translate into future economic prosperity. As far as financial globalization is concerned world needs basic research to improve the systems.

Students of economics should consider this as an opportunity and focus on this area for their research and development.