ISLAMABAD – Pakistan has undergone a series of positive developments meriting recognition and country’s economy was on track to complete an International Monetary Fund program from start to finish for the first time in its 70-year history.
According to an article published in Forbes, American-based business magazine, the positive developments taking place in the country despite very poor country brand with the international media, set the table for the sort of policies and investments needed to move the country on a path traveled by Indonesia or Brazil.
The magazine stressed the United States and its allies to help address the core structural development problems within Pakistan that would also help resolve their security concerns.
It also asked the US Administration to broaden the way it looked at Pakistan as security issues have dominated Washington’s Pakistan agenda for decades while “soft” issues have been an afterthought.
From Islamabad’s perspective, the “soft” issues included some of their most important challenges. These soft issues might be characterized as Pakistan’s “6Es”: (non-security) engagement, economics, entrepreneurship, education, energy, and (gender) equality.
According to the magazine, most of the international community engage Pakistan through an “AfPak” lens or an “IndoPak” lens, but Pakistan cannot be defined completely by its relationships with its neighbors.
Pakistan is the sixth largest country by population in the world and is projected to become the fourth largest country by 2050. To understand Pakistan requires analysis through its own sui generis set of issues and opportunities. The country had its first peaceful democratic transition in 2013, and for now, the military, the civilian government, and civil society are broadly aligned on security issues.
Pakistan’s growing middle class, which will expand from an estimated 40 million people today to 100 million people by 2050, represents a powerful engine for change, demanding both improved services and greater access to opportunities.
One key area of expanding demand and potential growth lies in the energy sector. Pakistan’s abundant coal reserves and access to water flowing from the Himalayas mean it could be the “Saudi Arabia of Coal” and the “Saudi Arabia of Hydropower.”
Pakistan also has significant wind, solar and geothermal potential. It is in both U.S. and Pakistani interests to see that Pakistan grows a lot faster.
To seize its full potential, Pakistan is going to need more capable people to lead industries that will carry its future growth; run it’s national, provincial and city governments; and grow its universities.
The government has made some increases in spending on education, up from 1.9 percent of GNP in 2004 to 2.5 percent in 2014; Pakistan aspires to spend 4 percent of GNP on education so it is still not where it needs to be.
In Pakistan’s higher education institutions approximately 45 percent of students are women, but at the basic education levels the numbers are much lower, with some provinces at eighteenth century education participation levels: more than 50 percent of girls in rural areas do not attend primary school, and more than 75 percent of girls do not attend secondary school.
Pakistan’s government knows would have to simultaneously improve girls education levels in rural areas to come at par with a twenty-first-century economy, the magazine said.