ISLAMABAD - Institute for Policy Reforms Chairman Humayun Akhtar Khan has said that reliance on science and technology will place Pakistan’s economy on a path of sustained development.

He stated this at a talk organized jointly by the Institute for Policy Reforms and the Higher Education Commission. Dr Atta Ur Rahman, Adviser IPR and former federal minister and Chairperson Higher Education Commission, spoke on the topic of ‘Building a Knowledge Economy: Imperative for Socio-Economic Development’. A senior HEC representative welcomed the participants. He said that HEC co-sponsored the event because of the importance of the topic.

Humayun Akhtar Khan, Chairman Institute for Policy Reforms, stressed on the need to strengthen science & technology as this was the critical need of the time. He stated that value addition and knowledge input were key components for economic activity and were important determinants for growth. A 21st century economy cannot hope to grow without high contribution to GDP from the manufacturing sector. A knowledgeable and trained workforce with continued applied research would help the economy produce high technology goods and superior services. These were crucial for the country’s international competitiveness. He said that IPR would continue research into policies that would put Pakistan on the path of sustainable growth. He said that joint effort on the part of government, academia, and the private sector would help achieve this objective.

“We live in a world where knowledge has become the most important factor that determines socio-economic development while natural resources have diminishing importance. Pakistan cannot progress without focusing on the “triple helix” of the knowledge economy --- technology driven government policies, strong universities/research centers, and the critically important role of private sector in undertaking the manufacture and export of high technology products,” said Prof Atta-ur-Rahman while delivering a lecture on “Building a Knowledge Economy: Imperative for Socio-Economic Development” at the Higher Education Commission, Islamabad.

Prof Atta-ur-Rahman called for a departure from anarchaic development model that focused almost entirely on natural resources and production of low value agricultural and industrial products to an export oriented stance involving manufacture and exports of high value added goods. It was time to move towards building a strong knowledge economy. He dwelled on three key pillars for socio-economic development of the country. These include a determined government policy and implementation measures to make knowledge based development as the center piece of all national development plans, establishment of excellent universities and research centers in critical fields of national importance, and facilitating the private sector in the production and export of high technology goods. He gave the example of Singapore which has and natural resources, a population about one-fourth of Karachi and exports of an astonishing level of over$ 460 billion annually, whereas Pakistan’s exports have stagnated at about $ 25 to $ 30 billion. Pakistan, he said, was into the low value added textile sector in its manufacturing and exports whereas the big money could only be earned in the manufacture and exports of high value added agricultural products, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology goods, IT products and services, automobiles, ships, household appliances industrial machinery, and defense products. He noted that while developed countries had about 3,000 scientists per million population, Pakistan had only a couple of hundred per million. He said that government must target to produce about 500,000 new scientists and engineers in the next ten years and put them to good use.

For Pakistani businesses to become internationally competitive, the country must have the ability to create, acquire, and use knowledge for socio-economic development. This in turn needs good policies and effective administrative interventions. It is not enough merely to create new knowledge. The real benefit to the economy would come from translating the knowledge into new high technology products that could be exported and could help Pakistan substantially increase its GDP and provide jobs.

A discussion followed the presentation. The knowledgeable participants noted that the country had made good progress during 2002-2008. Regrettably, subsequent governments did not give education the same priority.