EDUCATION VITAL FOR PROGRESS
SHABBIR H. KAZMI
Aug 16 - 22, 2010
To be futuristic in approach one should have complete comprehension of past and present, to be precise emerging trends. Nations having achieved the status of developed economies have not achieved all that overnight. They defined national objectives, prepared supporting policies, and then worked hard to attain the targets. However, the situation seems contrary in Pakistan.
The successive governments are often blamed for the dismal development but can the individuals say they did enough but failed in achieving the desired targets. While good nations keep on raising the bars, most of our time is spent on rationalising the failures.
Pakistan suffers from some contentious issues that include mounting budget deficit, widening trade gap and declining purchasing power of people. Bulk of Pakistan's annual budget is eaten by debt servicing and least is spent on education, healthcare and infrastructure development. The outcome is more and more people being pushed below the poverty line; do not look at the rising per capita income by purchasing power of population at large.
Over the last two decades, the single largest factor affecting country's growth has been 'mounting energy deficit'. The problem become too much to bear because electricity and gas tariffs are on the rise so are the outages. In simplest words, Pakistan's economic managers have failed in estimating the growing demand as well as coming up with right policies to facilitate creation of new power plants and expedite oil and gas exploration activities. While electricity demand has been increasing at around 10 per cent per annum there has been no corresponding increase in power generation.
Every one blames rising prices of crude oil for the hike in electricity tariff, but even Nepra seems least bothered about raising transmission and distribution (T&D) losses. It will not be wrong to say that the authority created to protect the interest of all the stakeholders is patronising inefficiencies of the electric utilities and penalising those customers paying their bills. Tariffs are being raised to improve cash flow of the electric utilities but Nepra always condone T&D losses, which mostly comprise of rampant electricity theft going on in connivance with the staff of utilities.
One tends to rank Ogra higher compared to Nepra on one point penalising gas distribution companies for not meeting the UFG benchmark. Though profit of gas marketing companies is guaranteed, imposition of penalty reduced the profit. SSGC's had to pay about Rs3 billion penalties as its actual UFG was about eight per cent compared to the benchmark fixed at five per cent. Why can't Nepra adopt a policy of fixing T&D loss benchmark and impose penalty for not meeting it? According to experts, T&D losses of KESC should not be more than 5 per cent, whereas its actual T&D losses exceed 40 per cent.
It may be true that regulatory authorities have failed in protecting the interest of consumers but the blame also goes to the consumers for not making any attempt to stop these authorities from making bad decisions. Every time before allowing tariff increase both the authorities conduct public hearing but the response from entities is lackluster. Many of the associations claiming to be the custodians of consumer rights/protection often appear in the hearing but use rhetoric rather than hard facts. Utilities win mainly because government is still the biggest stakeholder in Wapda, Pepco, SSGC, SNGPL, PSO, OGDC and PPL.
At a recent road show organised by a Malaysian publication in collaboration with the State Bank of Pakistan, Acting Governor Yaseen Anwar highlighted two stumbling blocks in proliferation of
Agriculture has about 25 per cent share in GDP and its contribution can be increased simply by achieving higher production of major crops. This target can be achieved without bringing additional area under cultivation but simply through better crop management. This includes using certified seeds, applying appropriate dosage of fertiliser and water and spraying pesticides and insecticides at the right times. However, to do all this farmers must have the knowledge. This can be done best by agriculture research institutes, fertiliser manufacturing companies and pesticides and insecticides marketing companies.
Pakistan has not been able to exploit the advantage of being among the top five cotton producing country. It is mainly because average cotton yield achieved in Pakistan is very low compared to global average. Cotton staple is damaged to a large extent because of using obsolete technologies in ginning factories. Spinning mills are still using outdated spindles and rotors. Weaving is done of power looms rather than using modern looms. Dying is not according to global standards. Productivity of workers in the garments and made-up units is nearly one-third of the productivity of the workers in the neighboring countries.
All these inadequacies are because of paying least attention on education, staring from primary to higher and professional education. Every year thousand of graduates are produced completely devoid of the skills needed. Many of the experts are jubilant of rising remittances but completely ignore the fact that this money is being sent by the unskilled or semi skilled workers rather than professionals. They talk about remittances getting close to $10 billion but hardly look at Bangladesh which plans achieving $30 billion target over the next five years.
Though some of the critics are talking about brain drain threat but forget that huge population is the biggest resource of Pakistan. Education and vocational training of masses will not only improve the quality of available manpower but also help earning extra remittances and bringing down unemployment in the country. Government should allocate more on education and also ensure spending the budgeted amounts. Educated Pakistan is the solution for achieving progress.