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National development

Pakistan today has the lowest GDP growth in the region. The government claims to have a GDP
growth of 4.7 percent but independent experts disagree and insist that it is well below 4 percent. 
What has gone wrong? We seem to have no idea that we now live in a world where the most
important resource is knowledge. We continue to spend only about 2 percent of our GDP on
education, despite hollow promises by successive governments. With our educational system in
tatters we can never progress since a knowledge-based economy requires the establishment of
high-technology industries.
There has been a radical change in the last 50 years in the way nations can develop. Natural
resources now have very little importance, and account for only a small fraction of the world’s
GDP. The real wealth lies in the ability of nations to manufacture and export medium- and high-
technology goods of high quality. The real wealth of Pakistan lies in its 100 million youth who
are below the age of 20. In order to transition to a knowledge economy we need to unleash their
creativity through a high quality educational system.
This requires a radical change in the priorities that the planning and finance ministries of fast-
emerging economies now accord to projects where the single most important crosscutting theme
is the production and export of high-tech goods. Technology transfer must be mandatory in all
FDI projects. For this to occur, we need to develop a critical mass of a highly-trained and well-
educated work force that can meet the very demanding manpower needs of high technology
There is a serious mismatch between the capabilities of school graduates and the need for highly
advanced skills by the industry. Vocational training institutes of world standard should be
established by upgrading existing institutions and by providing top class faculty and appropriate
The advanced countries have 2500-3000 scientists/engineers per million population. Some of the
existing colleges should be converted from just those offering BA/BSc degrees to ‘Community
Technical Colleges’ which produce skilled manpower in areas such as electronics, mechanics,
medical technology, refrigeration, plumbing, design, computer programming and production
There is a need to promote R&D and technological innovation, to introduce technologies through
strategic incentivisation and to diffuse technologies to the production sectors for which effective
mechanisms will need to be developed and implemented.
To develop a competitive edge in the changing global scenario, world-class ‘centres of
excellence’ should be created in selected priority fields so that Pakistan becomes internationally
competitive — and in some cases a world leader. These centres should be tasked to nurture high
quality talent in various fields of science and engineering, and establish linkages with industry,
agriculture and health and to tackle major national problems. Centres of excellence should also
be established in technology development and technology commercialisation.
Similarly, one of the major obstacles to utilisation of research results is the absence of process
engineering companies in Pakistan which can take the design data of pilot/demonstration levels
and provide total turn-key technology to the industrial sector. Such institutions need to be
developed urgently.
The most important crosscutting issue across all sectors is that of proper governance. And the
government needs to address this issue in order to achieve well-defined targets.


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