ISLAMABAD  - Prof Ahsan Iqbal, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms, on Tuesday emphasized on investing vigorously in social and human capital to turn around the fate of the nation.

Addressing as a chief guest in opening plenary by SDPI’s 16th Sustainable Development Conference titled “Creating Momentum: Today is Tomorrow”, Prof Ahsan Iqbal said, “We must switch to digital literacy from pen literacy to embrace knowledge-based economic model of the 21st century, instead of traditional economic themes having roots in the Industrial Revolution of 18th and 19th century. The traditional ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ are being replaced by the ‘information haves’ and ‘information have-nots’. He explained, “The Knowledge model has changed model of generating wealth, as Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and other IT-based businesses are producing new millionaires and billionaires in the world. Ability to acquire, process and use information has become key to economic success. The developing countries like Pakistan lag far behind the developed nations in Prosperity Index because they have remote access to these new factors of economic development. Therefore, we must take aggressive steps to equip our human resource with these latest technological advances in order to reap the fruit of knowledge-based economic model”.

Ahsan Iqbal highlighted, “Globalization and regionalization are the two conflicting but major trends of the modern global economy. Countries are synergizing into regional economic blocks to counter the challenges posed by resource-rich multi-national and trans-national companies”.  He added,” 85% of the world trade in this century is estimated to be either inter-regional or intra-regional in nature, but it is heart-rending to note that since its inception in 1985, the regional trade volume of SAARC member states is just 5% of the overall world trade, despite holding 17 Summit and 34 Ministerial meetings of the SAARC countries. This poor economic data owe a great deal to trust deficit between Pakistan and India, because both countries cover 80% of the SAARC pie”.

The federal minister urged upon the need to take radical steps in bridging the trust deficit between the two major economies of the South Asian region lest it should be too late to recover”. He also shed light on the unilateral steps taken in good faith by the Government of Pakistan to improve upon the long-standing mistrust between the two odd neighbours.  He added, “Pakistan has shown political maturity over the past decade, as India is no more an electoral issue in Pakistan, but in India, Pakistan bashing is still popular with politicians and media in electoral cycle.

 Prime Minister, Muhammad Nawaz Sharif was the first leader in the region who publicly talked of having better ties with India during 1997 election campaign. Indian leadership must also move beyond war of words as future of over 1.5 billion people in South Asia is at stake. Iqbal also stressed upon the need of resolving all outstanding disputes with India through dialogue. He said, “We must start with resolving Sir Creek and Siachin issues on which both the parties have already come to consensus”. He asked the Indian authorities to resume Air India operations in Pakistan, give landing rights to Pakistani TV channels in India, and re-start bilateral cricket series between the two major cricketing nations in the region”.

On this occasion, Prof Ahsan Iqbal infused a spirit of optimism by refuting those who paint a bleak picture of our future as a nation.  He explained, “The health of any system or state depends on rule of law, consensus on fundamental issues, spirit of the stakeholders to compete and collaborate, freedom of expression, high level of engagements of the stakeholders. Pakistan is making positive progress on all these indices. The new government is tackling the economic challenges by making right choices. The country has improved its ranking on transparency and good governance.  There are no more corruption breaking news”. Pakistan Vision 2015 enjoys support of all stakeholders.  We have to adopt “One nation, one vision” as motto to defeat forces of extremism, poverty and illiteracy. Pakistan will become one of the fastest growing economies in Asia through Pakistan 2025 agenda.