ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Petroleum Nadeem Babar Tuesday underlined the need for increased collaboration between academia and industry to produce quality manpower, having skills to use modern techniques and technologies in tapping the country’s unexplored hydrocarbon potential.
“We will have to produce skilled human resource and stop brain drain with the nexuses among academia, industry and government for the petroleum sector, which has a much bigger and long-lasting potential of changing the trade balance as compared to other export industries like leather, sports and surgical goods,” he said while addressing the opening session of a two-day SPE-PAPG Annual Technical Symposium and Exhibition-2019 here.
He said approximately the country was importing hydrocarbons amounting to $16 billion annually, while exports of other products stood at about $25 billion.
The SAPM said a number of Pakistanis all over world, who excelled in different fields, were playing important role in economic development of their respective host countries, but ”we always complain about not finding good human resource in Pakistan.”
As a visiting lecturer, Nadeem Babar said he had taught at universities like University of California Berkeley and educational institutes in Pakistan and found “no difference in the raw intellect and enthusiasm of students.”
He said they [students] were all the same but once they moved into professional life they slowly started becoming “gibbet,” adding “there are very few who get to the point where we can say these are the individuals who can compete head-to-head with anybody in the world.”
Unfortunately, he said many of them migrated from the country after seeing no opportunity to progress and “the government and industry are responsible for that brain drain. So a nexus between academia, industry and the government is must for producing quality manpower.”
Commenting on Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government’s multi-pronged strategy to step up oil and gas exploration activities, he said the Petroleum Division was all set to initiate bidding process for award of 35 to 40 new exploration blocks during next month.
After coming into power last year, he said the government tendered 7 to 8 blocks but without any road show or marketing because, due to which, most of the blocks, not all, ended up with national companies.
But this time, the SAPM said “we have gone around the world, hit the usual spots in US, Canada, Abu Dhabi, China and Russia to make people aware that we are coming out with new big-one bid round.”
He said the new exploration blocks would be awarded in three rounds during the next 12 months.
Highlighting the importance of increased exploration activities, he said Pakistan, having a population of 220 million people, consumed roughly 90 million tons energy every year and as per any global measure “we are an energy-starved nation.”
He said this low level of energy usage had affected the country’s overall Gross Domestic Product growth and economic health. “But it does not stop there, last year the number of hydrocarbons import stood close to $16 billion, while our total exports were only about $25 billion.”
To meet the growing energy needs, he said the government had allowed all five companies, who had sought permission for setting up Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminals, under its policy to open up this area for the private sector. “It is not for the government to decide that who has the muscle and market clout and power to succeed. It is for the market to decide.”
He said drastic reforms were also being introduced in the Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) sector to ensure smooth supply of the commodity at controlled rate throughout the year.
“The government’s footprint in the coming years in the energy sector and matters of other sectors is going to shrink, which is not only its stated policy but fervent desire and intention,” he said, adding role of the government was to introduce business-friendly policies and environment.
He said due to effective policies of the government, the national economy had started moving in right direction and it was the high time for industries to take benefit of the improved situation.
During the last 12 months, the SAPM said the government had found the economy as “a patient that was profusely bleeding and near to death, but now the patient is not only stabilized but also standing on its own legs and intends to start working and running very soon.”
He asked the conference participants to give ideas and suggestions to the government for bringing more improvement in the petroleum sector so that desired results could be achieved.
Representatives of 20 national and multinational companies, and more than 1,000 local and foreign energy experts attended the two-day event.
The Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE- Pakistan Section) and Pakistan Association of Petroleum Geoscientists (PAPG) had jointly organized the conference, which was coordinated by Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL).