Govt is Investing in Pakistan’s Demographic to Create Jobs: Hammad Azhar

The government is committed to investing in Pakistan’s huge demographic and turn the country’s immense potential into a vibrant economy, generating job opportunities and revenue besides putting the country on a path of development and prosperity.

This was stated by Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar while addressing the concluding session of the two-day “Thought Leaders Summit 2020” organized by the British Council. The event was attended by a large number of experts in the fields of research, higher education, digital, creative & cultural economies.

He also shed light on issues ranging from creative economy to higher education, digital economy, equality, inclusivity and enabling environment. He reiterated the government’s resolve to turn all the challenges into opportunities.

He said that Pakistan could garner huge benefits from its demographic dividends, adding that other countries such as China, India, Japan, and Indonesia have taken advantage of their demographic potential. Unfortunately, Pakistan, despite the fact it has the immense potential in the field, has not utilized it.

“We are committed to generating opportunities in the job market in line with the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan and the government by branding Pakistan’s potential of demographic richness,” he added.

In the digital economy, he admitted that in this sector too, Pakistan had not performed well in the past. “Digital starts-ups usually begin with Small & Medium Enterprises,” he said adding there was a time when this particular sector’s share used to be 16% but in recent years it steadily declined to 8%.

State of Bank of Pakistan (SBP) in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance has taken bold initiatives and in the next three to four years it will be back at the 16% and we shall make a further increase in it, he said. On the subject of Creative Economy, Minister Hammad Azhar said Pakistan lagged in that sector too. “We need to brand our culture and heritage as small countries with limited sources are generating huge revenue by investing in the creative economy.

The minister also divulged into an element of equality and inclusivity in education and promised by the mid of the next year, the government would ensure a uniform curriculum at the school level. “Unless we give our youth a level playing field, we cannot expect to utilize their potential in a maximum way.”

While appreciating the work done by the British Council’s Research Evaluation & Monitoring Unit (REMU), Hammad Azhar agreed there was a need to enhance the Higher Education budget particularly the development budget. Although the development part of higher education is registering considerable raise yet it needs to be increased and the government was well aware of it.

The British Council, he said, has done a great job by providing a platform for discussing fundamental issues of inclusive development, challenges in higher education, dissemination of knowledge and sharing data. This is ideal time we turn a liability into opportunity and this can be made possible only by investing in the right direction at the right time, Azhar added.

Amir Ramzan, Country Director of the British Council in Pakistan said the summit aimed to bring together stakeholders to initiate dialogue for improving the socio-economic status of Pakistanis across the board, especially young people.

“We are delighted to host thought leaders from across Pakistan to discuss the importance of research in social, cultural and economic growth. This initiative “Thought Leaders’ Summit 2020” will help build connections, understanding, and trust among different sectors, said Amir Ramzan adding the British Council worked with several stakeholders in Pakistan and the UK to produce quality research addressing some key challenges to inform policy.

A report “The New Knowledge Report 2020” released by the British Council revealed that the opportunities for Pakistan are similar to those for other countries, better sharing of information, commerce, social trends, digital access to government services and more opportunities for self-learning.

But like most developing countries, Pakistan faces a number of challenges before it can achieve universal digital citizenship. The country experiences low levels of internet access, and access concentrated in urban areas. These gaps and disparities are also sharply visible in regional infrastructure and investment which left many parts of the country with almost no or very poor access to the internet.

However, in order to overcome challenges to digital citizenship in Pakistan, British Council Pakistan Research Evaluation, Monitoring Unit (REMU) recommended that actions improve digital content development and infrastructure. it further initiatives to reduce gaps in human capital for the creation, distribution, and use of innovative digital content. These include online education to advance literacy and effective digital citizenship.