SETTING THE RIGHT PRIORITIES

EXAMINING INDIAN MODEL CAN HELP IN REDEFINING PRIORITIES.

SHABBIR H. KAZMI
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Apr 23 - 29, 20
12

Some critics say that huge population of around 200 million is the biggest problem of Pakistan, whereas others term it the biggest asset. They say if appropriate education and vocational training is imparted, these 200 million people can boost GDP of the country many time the present level. However, the objective can be achieved only by bringing radical changes in the education system being followed in the country. They are also of the view that Pakistan can earn huge foreign exchange by exporting human resource. At present, Pakistanis working abroad send nearly one billion dollars every month.

It must be kept in mind that bulk of these remittances is sent by those workers who fall in the category of semi-skilled and skilled workers. If Pakistan is able to produce more engineers, doctors and software designers the quantum of remittances could be doubled in very short span of time.

Critics also say that by sending Pakistani workers to other countries, the probability of Žbrain drain' increases. Other say just don't be afraid of brain drain, rather keep on preparing the work force and facilitate them in acquiring jobs in other countries.

The first item on agenda should be defining national objective 'Educated Pakistan'. Under this, an elaborate plan has to be chalked out specifying number of doctors, engineers, and software developers to be prepared every year. This has to be completed with vocational training. Once this plan is finalized a trickledown model has to be prepared that will start with training of the trainers. It is often realized that teachers often lack knowledge of disciplines in great demand around the world. If the teachers do not have the prerequisite, they would never be able to teach the students properly.

This could be best understood by examining operations of 'call centers'. People working for these centers have to be fluent in English, able to benefit from convergence of information technology and telecommunication and above all willing to work at night.

India has been earning billions of dollars through opening up call centers for the US and European companies. However, Pakistan enjoys an edge that its people do not have 'ethnic accent', which is most common in India. However, it is a fact that the percentage of educated and English speaking people is much higher in India. With the passage of time, India has been trying very hard to overcome this inadequacy.

India also earns billions of dollars from export of software and offering data entry staff. Pakistan is not behind in India in technology or manpower, but has not been able to market its 'advantage' prudently. While India has been able to create hundreds and thousands of 'technology parks' where uninterrupted supply of electricity at concessional rate is available and telecommunication facilities are offered at most competitive rates, no such facilities do exist in Pakistan. However, private sector must accept its inadequacy of depending on government.

Any multistory building can be used for the creation of technology parks. If local electricity companies cannot ensure uninterrupted electricity supply at affordable cost, managers of these parks should install their own generators, set up internet service providers, and other necessary infrastructure.

Availability of DSL facilities has made data transfer in bulk cost effective and efficient. To further facilitate, the government must offer 3G and 4G spectrum at the earliest.

However, the business community has to prioritize its requirements. Better linkage between educational institutions and trade and industry can help in redefining the curriculum, training of the trainers, and above all absorbing the graduates coming out of the business schools and universities.

Lack of this linkage is evident in agriculture, manufacturing, and services sector. Pakistan suffers from poor yield of different crops. The yields in Pakistan are below the average attained in the region. Experts say that output of various crops can be doubled without bringing additional area under cultivation.

However, going through 10-year data reveals that very little progress has been attained. Two of Pakistan's major crops cotton and sugarcane suffer from this syndrome. If Pakistan attains even global average of four crops i.e. wheat, rice, sugarcane and cotton, size of GDP will increase by 25 per cent minimum. The added advantage will be huge foreign exchange earnings from exporting sugar, molasses, and ethyl alcohol.

India also earns huge foreign exchange by offering its facilities under 'outsourcing program'. Under this program, many of the leading international brands are produced in India. On one hand, this increases employment opportunities and on the other enables the country to earn huge foreign exchange. This is most common in textiles and clothing industry, particularly those subsectors that are labor intensive. In Pakistan, productivity of labor working in made-ups manufacturing is low, which can be enhanced by offering training.

Remember the workers operating in 'chain system' may not be highly educated but must possess excellence in operating machines. It is common saying that cost of redoing is many times the cost incurred right in the first attempt.

All those industries, which are labor intensive, enjoy good opportunities in Pakistan. The country needs people with vocational training rather than those who have graduate or master degrees in disciplines, which have no demand in the country. The time has come to groom future generation to work in call centers, gems-cutting and stitching of made-ups. Pakistan has ample number of MBAs and graduate engineers, but unless more productive facilities are created, there will be no demand for supervisors and managers.