Apr 4 - 10, 20

With a strategic location in the region and having vast untapped natural resources, diversity of climate, simultaneously five ecological zones, fisheries and strategic mineral resources, the province has the potential to emerge as Pakistan's new economic frontier. It is endowed with rich reserves of gas, oil, lead, zinc, iron, marble, coal, gold and copper.

The province is home to half of the country's estimated gas reserves of 200 trillion cubic feet, as about 100 trillion cubic feet, according to one estimate, are found in the province. Sui gas field in Bugti tribal area accounts for a quarter of the country's total output. Reko Diq copper and gold deposits in Chagai are believed to be even bigger than Sarcheshmeh in Iran and Escondida in Chile. It is one of the biggest untapped copper deposits on the globe.

Being a tribal, traditional and hence a closed society, Balochistan's development poses enormous challenges, which can be met only through educating the people on modern lines. The province in fact, needs educational academies, not the army garrisons.

Balochistan is poor because it is poor. The province's human and material resources remained unutilized or underutilized. The people are technologically backward. Illiteracy is higher and hence the people lack the initiative and entrepreneurial ability. The province lacks the skilled and trained labor to utilize its natural resources. Resultantly, its resource potential remained untapped and the province has been caught up in underdevelopment trap. The deficiency of resources is the root cause of its underdevelopment. Lack of capital, low investment and low productivity has led to the low income of the province, and hence it is caught up in the vicious circle of poverty.

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. Therefore, in any development strategy for the province, human resource development is a key factor. Investment in human capital formation means investment in education and health sectors. Only the educated, skilled, and healthy people can make the best use of the enormous natural resources of a country.

There is a famous Chinese proverb, "If you plan for a year, plant a seed. If for ten years, plant a tree. If for a hundred years, teach the people. When you sow a seed once, you will reap a single harvest. When you teach the people, you will reap a hundred harvests".

Education is the best tool of human capital formation. There is a greater need to allocate significant resources for human development so that local people could benefit from the expected upsurge in economic activities in the province in the near future. Access to the high-tech computing services is the requirement of present age of globalization. Information technology, scientific management related education and value adding knowledge are considered the keys and secrets of winning success in today's world of science and technology.

Education actually distinguishes the poor from the non-poor. For example, the proportion of literate household heads in poor households is almost half that of non-poor households. Poor households on average have 75 per cent more children than the non-poor households. Most of these children are not receiving any education, and thus the cycle of poverty is perpetuated. There is a strong correlation between household income and school enrollment.

Unfortunately, education, the most important sector in Balochistan received least attention of the ruling elite in the past, or in other words, the key sector was ignored. Today, the ignorance of the past has manifested itself as 'educational backwardness' posing serious threat to legitimate interests of the local people in wake of execution of mega projects in the province.

Rural Balochistan absolutely lacks the physical infrastructure and educational facilities wherein dropout rate of children is at the higher level. According to an estimate, there are a total of 15,000 settlements in Balochistan. Out of these settlements, 7,000 are equipped with the schools of formal education sector. In most of the districts in the province, the literacy rate among the female is even less than 4 per cent.

The province faces dual problems of high illiteracy and high poverty incidences. The province also shows large variations in educational attainment among different economic groups. With low participation in general education and low completion rates at primary and secondary levels, the average literacy rate of the population aged 10 years and above is only 36 per cent for Balochistan. As a result, while the unemployment and underemployment rates in the province are higher than the national rates, job vacancies are often unfilled due to lack of trained personnel. And, even though there are increasing job opportunities abroad, especially in the Middle East and Malaysia, many youths lack the skills to seek jobs. Official sources claim that literacy rate of Balochistan is 31 per cent as compared to 49 per cent literacy rate at the national level.

Technical education and vocational training (TEVT) system in Balochistan suffers from many structural and operational problems, leading to poor education quality, unequal access, limited resources, low efficiency, and weak linkage with the labor market. High dropout rates and a passing rate of less than half for examinations attest to the inefficiency of polytechnic programs. Finding work for graduates also takes a long time, partly because the skills needed for the jobs available are mismatched with the technical education given.

Poor education reduces the productivity of investments and weakens governance.

Performance improvement in the educational arena can yield great potential returns in terms of development in the province.

With low participation in general education and low completion rates at primary and secondary levels, the unemployment and underemployment rates in the province are higher than the national rates. Job vacancies are often unfilled due to lack of trained personnel. The province has a poor record in educating girls. Only about one-third of girls, who should be in primary school, are enrolled in the province.

Politically stable, socially progressive and economically developed Balochistan provides the investors and businesspersons an ideal environment for doing and growing their business. Unfortunately, it is still a dream to come true as the restive province cannot attract the investors besides its geostrategic location and enormous natural resources.

Balochistan is the country's poorest province, with standards of living and social indicators lagging substantially behind the rest of the country. There is a need to formulate a cohesive strategy to target sustainable, widespread, and cross-sectoral growth and integrated economic development in the province.