ISLAMABAD    -     Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh has described development of human skills, working in partnerships and allowing the private sector to work at its full potential as the three key drivers of development and prosperity for any country or nation.

“The big lesson of development history is the model presented by countries like Japan, Singapore and Scandinavia which focused on skill enhancement, technical capability and work ethics of their people,” he said while delivering a keynote address to a well-attended session on ‘Prospects of Economic Integration in SAMECA: Exploring New Vistas of Cooperation’, arranged by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI). The seminar was part of two-day ‘Margalla Dialogue: Peace and Development in South Asia, Middle East, Central Asia (SAMECA) held at a local hotel.

Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh said that it was essential for countries and the governments to keep their people and the development of their skill-sets and capability as the focus of their efforts. He also pointed out that no country achieved development and prosperity alone and the only way to bring prosperity to our people was to find a way to sell our products to others and to ensure that others partnered with us. “This is the focal lesson of development as no country in the history has brought prosperity to its people alone, especially without its neighbours,” he said, citing the example of Chinese leadership which understood this lesson and brought 700 million of its people out of poverty. The Adviser underlined the role of private sector as being the key driver in prosperity by saying that the only way to bring prosperity was to allow the private sector to perform unregulated as job of bureaucrats and government ministers was to formulate policies and act like facilitators while real action was performed by private sector people who could drive and accelerate the pace of development and progress.

He said that the region was marred by many problems including poor connectivity, low trade, no rail links, difficult border crossings, excessive visa restrictions, poor infrastructure links, un-harmonised customs, poor access to insurance and finance, archaic foreign exchange rules and restrictive visa regimes. The solution, he said, lay in finding a way out through greater access and more interaction between peoples to establish real human contacts.

Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh also spoke on the role of money in bringing prosperity and development by saying that there was so much money chasing so few projects. He said the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank alone had $100 billion while the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Islamic Development Bank share capital was also impressive but they were insignificant when compared to hundreds of billions of dollars possessed by the private sector. “All this money is waiting for good purchase but countries make bad policies which don’t attract those hundreds of billions of dollars, and create lots of obstacles in the way of that money to come to our countries,” he said, adding that misleading the private sector was impossible and the private sector would only bring its money to a country where everyone else also brought his or her money.

He said that it was necessary to bring in a policy regime that was not obstructive and restrictive in nature and the best thing the governments could do was to get out of the way of businesses and value the people who were legitimately making money. “Until and unless we value people who are legitimately making money, we will not be able to have a situation in which people can flourish and generate jobs. You cannot hire millions and millions of people in government departments as the business of government is not to create jobs in the government departments but it is to create jobs in the rest of the economy and that can happen only if you provide the right sets of incentives.” Talking about Pakistan, Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh said the country was trying to make the neighbourhood not as difficult as it was.