The difference between an underdeveloped nation and a highly-developed one is that of a primitive economy based on unskilled labour and a knowledge-based economy enriched with invaluable treasures of higher education. In the quagmire of terrorism, stricken by extremism, mired in a debilitating energy crisis, ridden with corruption and now beset by natural disasters of unprecedented scale, Pakistan can hardly be expected to be on the way to becoming a developed economy but despite all these realities, we just cannot overlook the all-important issue of higher education. It is in shambles, though, as one would expect in circumstances like this. A variety of factors are in play. The socio-economic poverty of the countrys majority, the current hike in university admission fees, cut in allocations for scientific projects, withholding of the HEC budget and non-provision of funds to the HEC scholars are all contributing factors. The civilian leadership of the country shows an astonishing ignorance of the value of higher education. Despite tall claims about raising budgetary allocation for education to 7.5% of the GDP in future in the deftly-documented Education Policy of 2009, the government has done zilch on this score so far. The recent chop of 90% in the HEC funds and an almost 100% increase in university admission fees show clearly what is wrong with our priorities. DR SHAHID MEHMOOD, Faisalabad, August 31.