Strong industry-academia linkage can ensure socio-economic development: Ahsan

LAHORE: Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Prof. Ahsan Iqbal on Tuesday called for strong industry-academia synergy to foster industrial productivity for enhanced exports and ensuring socio-economic development in the country.

He was addressing an international conference on Health Security organized by University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (UVAS) at a local hotel, where HEC Advisor Lt. Gen. (Retd) Muhammad Asghar, Provincial Livestock and Dairy Development Secretary Muhammad Masood Anwar, UVAS Vice Chancellor Prof. Dr. Nasim Ahmad, University of Education (UoE) VC Prof. Dr. Talat Naseer Pasha, Fatima Jinnah Medical University's VC Prof. Dr. Khalid Manzoor Gondal, Director General CPEC (HEC) Dr. Safdar Ali Shah were also present.

Federal Minister added that as an agrarian country, Pakistan needed to promote agriculture and livestock sector to ensure food security keeping in view the increasing population that was estimated to be 330 million by year 2050.

Prof. Ahsan Iqbal said, “We have to utilize the available knowledge, skills and resources in an effective manner that will definitely expedite development process in every sector. The universities and research must play their role in the national development by bringing forth innovations while using modern technology.”

Though Pakistan was 5th largest milk producing country and also among top ten countries of world with regard to yield of rice, wheat, sugarcane and other agri produces, its per acre yield was very low and its livestock growth was also slow, just because Pakistan lagged behind use of modern technology and methods in agri and livestock farming, he maintained.

The government, he said, started initiatives like UK Knowledge Platform and US Knowledge Corridor under which Pakistani researchers/students would learn modern techniques for 10 years and return back with innovations to be implemented in various sectors in the country.

By adopting modern technology and methods in agriculture, livestock and dairy sectors, Pakistan could capture the global markets of halal meat and milk especially the Middle East, he hoped.

Prof. Ahsan Iqbal said, Pakistan had no dearth of talented and management skills people, who could help pull the country out of current problems by playing their due role. He was of the view that at least ten years were needed for the success of a policy for which continuity of socio-economic policies were of great importance. “Pakistan's 75-year history shows that we have made strong policies, however, we are behind South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Turkey and other countries in terms of policy consistency. Unfortunately Pakistan dropped three catches i.e. three opportunities for a greater economic development. First of all, we were to become next Japan of South Asia but the war of 1965 has pushed us back. Similarly, in 1991 private sector participation brought investment in many sectors and Pakistan’s GDP had been growing at 7.7 percent but the then government was thrown out which again derailed Pakistan's economic development and the third opportunity we got in the form of CPEC, the Chinese government was very interested in investing in Pakistan,” he explained.

Prof. Ahsan Iqbal asserted that during previous tenure of PML-N government, Chinese investors and companies had been making investments at vast level but in year 2018 it was hampered with the formation of new government that started making allegations of corruption in the CPEC projects which once again derailed Pakistan from economic development.

Pakistan had lost trust of the world community during four years of previous government and was still facing its brunt especially on economic front, he maintained.

He said, “We have to learn a lesson that national development process should not be obstructed due to politics and mutual conflicts. National interest should not be sacrificed for the sake of mutual conflicts and politics. Therefore, we should learn to cooperate as Pakistanis to improve the country’s economy.”

Prof. Ahsan Iqbal said, “We have sacrificed our politics for revival of Pakistan’s economy and saving it from default.” The government is putting in order all possible measures for economic turnaround and within next two years, Pakistan would be enjoying economic turnaround as had been during 2013 to 2018, he added.

Federal Minister mentioned, “We failed to make Pakistan an export-led economy because the countries which focused on this strategy are now taking strides on economic front. For instance, 1960s, Pakistan’s exports were US $ 200 million and South Korea’s were US $ 100 million but today we touched mere US $ 32 billion, while South Korea surpassed US $ 550 billion.” He asserted that Pakistan needed to curb tax evasion; increase tax collection; and enhance exports from around Rs 30 billion to Rs 100 billion in the next five to eight years to attain speedy economic development. He said, “We also need to develop the IT skills of our youth, and there is a need to deal with the climate situation. Most importantly, we need to address the energy issue, which is a huge strain on Pakistan's foreign exchange reserves. So we need to switch over to renewable energy sources and also to focus on equality in education and health.