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Joint Working Group of CPEC and Quest for “Shared Destiny”

Majority of Pakistani farmers are engaged in subsistence farming. Therefore, government should not go for fancy plans or plans favorable for big landlords. It must be devised according to the need of small farmers

Shakeel Ahmad Ramay

DECEMBER 15, 2018

All efforts are now being geared up to make the joint working group meeting a successful event. Government of Pakistan is busy in devising proposals which can ensure sustainable development in the country. The new government is trying to make it more beneficial for Pakistan without compromising on interests of China. JWG meeting is also important in the context of second phase of CPEC in which its scope will be expanded to areas like social development and skill development. China is now focusing to make CPEC a holistic program and include the most pressing areas according to the needs of Pakistan. This is in line with the commitment of China to help Pakistan survive through difficult times and make it a strong ally, a friend and a brother rather than making it a dependent ally.

In this backdrop, Pakistani government is preparing for the next JWG meeting. Government intends to rationalize its demands and programs on the basis of sound facts and figures. A close look at the working of the government ministries gives us hope that they will be well prepared to devise a comprehensive program for negotiations with Chinese counterparts. However, there are few areas which need special focus and high priority i.e. industrial and trade cooperation, and agriculture sector along with social and skill development. These areas are critical in the context of present fiscal crises, higher poverty and lower employment rates.

So, priority should be to mobilize resources for reforming and expanding industrial base of Pakistan by engaging public and private sector from China. It is a well established fact that China graduated from the status of world factory to world laboratory. Cost of production has been increased due to an increase in wage rates along with other factors. It is estimated that about 75-85 million jobs will migrate to new destinations. Pakistan should devise strategy around the available jobs and work how it can bring many to Pakistan. It requires a detailed study of China’s industrial sector and find out which are the target industries for working with. It must also be taken care what we are offering for the industry.

There is strong need to change the existing social development approach in Pakistan. Right now, we are engaged in publicity stunts and bartering votes at the name of social development

Development of industrial sector is key for providing sustainable and decent jobs. Pakistan should develop a proposal for engaging China and its private sector for shifting industry to Pakistan. Plan must contain steps and strategy to provide basic infrastructure and required skills. Special Economic Zones (SEZs) provides an excellent opportunity to fulfill the dream of industrial development and cooperation between Pakistan and China.

However, presently SEZs’ development is facing some problems which are hindering rapid development of these zones. The present government is trying hard to overcome these problems but it is a time consuming process. The government is trying to attract foreign investment by making investment policy more friendly for the business community.

Industrial development will require a sound trade policy for boosting export and ensuring import of required raw material. Right now country is suffering from worse trade deficit and it is contributing to deteriorate the financial health of country. Government should engage with China on two fronts, first to refine FTA and second to seek help for modernizing industry and products according to the need of international market. This requires close collaboration among Ministry of Finance, BOI and Ministry of Commerce at national level. Without good trade policy industrial development will be limited. Therefore, investment policy, industrialization and trade policy must go hand in hand for better results.

Second important agenda item for JWG is the development of agriculture sector. Agriculture has a prime importance in alleviating poverty and providing good livelihoods to millions of people of Pakistan. Owing to its critical importance, the government needs to be meticulous for devising any policy or engagement plan with China. Majority of Pakistani farmers are engaged in subsistence farming.  Therefore, government should not go for fancy plans or plans favorable for big landlords. It must be devised according to the need of small farmers. Small farmers need better quality seed, fertilizers and most important regularized agriculture supply and demand chain. Government should seek assistance for provision of quality inputs and market for small farmer’s products. Quality inputs will help small come out of trap of subsistence farming and make them able to produce for market. Moreover, Government should link the agriculture plan with social development plan and ask China for helping to improve the life of small farmers.

Strategy for the engagement of big farmers should be different from small farmers. Large farmers can be engaged by introducing concept of joint ventures. Government should ask China to identify larger farmers from China and help develop linkages with local large farmers. This venture can be a business venture, where investors act according to business needs.

Point of caution is that government should not mix small farmer with landlords, as it always has the been case. In past big farmers benefited at the name of small farmers. Pakistan must learn from the concept of ‘Targeted Subsidies’ from China, as they have already applied in their efforts to curb poverty. Targeted approach should be applied for the social development program. There is strong need to change the existing social development approach in Pakistan. Right now, we are engaged in publicity stunts and bartering votes at the name of social development. Moreover, social development programs are being designed by international experts and national with minimum or no input from the community. Pakistan can also learn from China how refine it according the need of people.

Lastly, skill development is an area, which will determine the fate of industrial development and agriculture modernization. Pakistan is lagging behind in this field with huge margin. Now China has offered Pakistan to invest in skill development Pakistan capitalize on this opportunity and should not waste time red tape practices. Moreover, Pakistan also has to eliminate biases in existing skill development.

One must hope that both governments will consider these points. As it is required to shape the ‘shared destiny‘ of the people of both countries.

The writer is the Chief Operating Officer of the Zalmi Foundation


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