January 2, 2019
Effective industrialisation has the potential to become a strong engine of growth, leading to sustainable economic development, employment-generation, poverty reduction and export-promotion.
Accordingly, the 8th meeting of the CPEC Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) that was held in Beijing primarily focused on boosting industrial cooperation, socioeconomic development and vocational training in line with the consensus reached between China and Pakistan.
The outcomes of the 8th JCC meeting reflect that significant progress has been made in these sectors, with the scope of CPEC clearly expanded across new avenues. Another milestone was the first meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWG) on Socioeconomic Development where pilot projects will be undertaken across Pakistan in six areas: agriculture, healthcare, education, clean water, poverty alleviation and vocational training .In the next stage, aggressive plans are required in these sectors to attain stable and sustainable economic growth, with the primary aim of creating jobs for the youth.
The 8th JCC meeting incidentally coincided with the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening-up. Led by paramount leader Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s, China’s opening-up reforms accelerated its economic growth followed by fast-paced industrialisation, urbanisation, and agricultural modernisation.
China’s opening-up reforms and miraculous economic transformation offer insightful lessons for developing countries. Currently, CPEC and China’s Belt and Road Initiative have provided Pakistan a key avenue for economic opening-up that can be harnessed through massive industrialisation and the right set of policies. Correspondingly, during the 8th JCC meeting, Pakistan reiterated the resolve to learn from China’s experience for its own holistic development.
The key agenda of the government is poverty alleviation. It believes that employment-generation directly reduces poverty by increasing household incomes and stimulating the economy. While the government is taking all the necessary steps and formulating plans to address the growing employment problems, the fact remains that the employment crises confronting Pakistan are far more complicated. Some complications are universal to all economies and some are specific to Pakistan. Notwithstanding the complexities involved, efforts are afoot to develop our human resources to address the demand for using sophisticated technology and undertake agricultural and industrial development demands. The solution to our nation’s employment problems is to create a constant flow of new jobs to keep pace with economic growth and reduce unemployment.
One complexity in Pakistan’s unemployment crisis is the inability of its education system to constantly supply an educated workforce trained to comply with the latest standards and protocols of technological innovations. Pakistan needs to harness its human resources. The future belongs to those who have blended science with the economy and focused on innovation and creativity to achieve development.
Although the envisaged relocation of industries in the SEZs will create new job requirements, it will also require our education system to supply an adequate number of skilled workers who measure up to their demands. Henceforth, a thorough focus on education and vocational training is needed to address unemployment. Technical training institutes are also being set up along the CPEC route as well as in Gwadar to provide skilled workers to industry. CPEC can tackle unemployment in the medium and long-term. In the early harvest phase, 65,000 jobs have been created, most of which have been in the infrastructure sector.
By the end of 2018, 67 percent of the workforce in energy projects comprised Pakistanis while over 75 percent of workers in infrastructure projects were from Pakistan. According to the latest study commissioned by the Centre of Excellence for CPEC, projects that fall under the economic corridor have the total potential to create 1.2 million new jobs, including in energy projects, infrastructure projects, the Gwadar Port and industrial cooperation.
Another key solution to addressing unemployment involves promoting and supporting entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs are an important force in creating jobs, and promoting development and cooperation. They impact the economy and make sizeable contributions to economic growth. Under the phase of industrial cooperation, CPEC supports new start-ups as it also focuses on building a knowledge economy.
One of the sphere in which the country enjoys comparative advantage is software development and IT expertise. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s software and IT experts are faring well abroad, but have had fewer advantages at home due to lack of support and opportunities. However, entrepreneurship in software development and other sectors can flourish under the ambits of CPEC through incubation centres and efforts to promote knowledge-based industrial development. The mission of those involved in teaching the next generation isn’t limited to merely imparting technical expertise. It also includes character-building and inculcating values and ethics that are deemed essential to develop a hardworking and professional workforce.
The writer is a project management specialist. Email: email@example.com