As originally published in Synergyzer Issue 2 – Annual 2017 – ‘Abracadabra’
For me, listening to our national anthem has always been overwhelming, having an idea of what it is trying to convey.
Tu nishan-e-azm-e-aali shan, Arẓ-e Pakistan!
(You, the symbol of high resolve; O Land of Pakistan!)
My very next thought is the land mired in challenges that do not seem to subside…Challenges from which opportunity stems and not being able to see those opportunities and plan for them becomes our biggest folly.
As Ali Raza Merchant points out that one of our greatest strengths were textiles, yet we never built upon it by offering degree programs to nurture talent for the industry. This eventually affected our position as a leading textile exporter and led to poor economic performance. He sums his argument up saying that we have never had a clear vision of what our main income generating businesses would be.
A similar case is CPEC, the Pak-China Economic Corridor. While analysts are clearly stating China as the bigger beneficiary in the coming 10 to 15 years, there are thinkers and futurists according to whom Pakistan can and will be the recipient of more benefits in 25 – 30 years if the country gears up its mechanisms to rise up to the challenge. We do know that infrastructural development is one of the key developments on the agenda. While the development of Gwadar port is expected to make new international market fronts accessible to Pakistan, the 3,218 km route will connect China’s Xinjiang region to the Gwadar port, leading to a requirement of a transportation network and a thriving need for restaurants, hospitality setups and resorts as the travelers will mostly be business-oriented as well as tourists.
Also, fiber optics and satellite internet is part of the plan. This will give a boost to the technology and telecommunications sector in the country as well as establish Pakistan as a regional hub for multinationals looking to reach out to neighboring regions. Further, Pakistan already has 2.0 versions in place for travel and transport with the likes of Careem, Uber, Jovago.pk, and Sastaticket.pk. With the expected increase in tourists, especially foreigners frequenting the country, not only will these services become more widespread, but also the need will increase for value-added digital mapping solutions like TPL Maps that provide localized navigation and routing as well as addresses.
Another important industry which is expected to get a strong boost is agriculture. Pakistan is home to some of the finest fruit produces of the world like cherries, apricots, Kino etc. as well as other vegetables, food crops and agricultural commodities. Also, Pakistan has a high potential of being developed as a fishing hub with its numerous seafronts, rivers and streams. The plan under CPEC includes construction and fertilizer production projects, storage and distribution of agricultural equipment, agricultural education and mechanization, and cooperation over water resources and livestock. Other than this, considering already existing trade options, the fruit produce from Pakistan’s north is taken by road to Islamabad and then flown to the Middle-East, its biggest market. Once the route starts functioning, it is expected to open business opportunities for the traders of Pakistan’s northern region in a more cost-effective way, and also make the Chinese market more accessible to them, increasing profitability.
For quite some time, we have been hearing that China will move up the value chain towards manufacturing more R&D based high technology products like air and spacecraft and pharmaceuticals and outsource lesser technology-oriented services to more developing countries like Pakistan. While this may be one case, pledges have been made to establish a joint cotton biotech laboratory, joint marine research center, and co-operation in the field of space research, increasing Pakistan’s prowess towards high-tech R&D.
While a lot is at stake since out of the US $54 billion that CPEC is valued at, it is still not been made clear how much is debt, equity and in kind and certain official documents have valued the debt to equity ratio at 80/20. Here, a lot of challenges are present that can be converted into opportunities like training & development of untrained locals especially for the hospitality industry and business-related transportation, development of industrial estates and taxation policies that can benefit the local industrial and business community, especially those residing along the CPEC route. Visionary dexterity, strategic evaluation, and extensive planning are required to tip the future in Pakistan’s favor eventually. And this is where our policymakers and politicians need to rise up to the occasion.
Qaum, mulk saltanat; Payindah tabindah baad!
Shad baad manzil-e-murad…
(May the nation, the country, and the state; Shine in glory everlasting!
Blessed be the goal of our ambition…)