By Farman Nawaz
Chinese efforts to increase its investment in different fields in Pakistan indicate that our neighbor is fully aware of our problems. This piece of writing will only try to show few more aspects where Chinese investment will surly win the hearts and minds of Pakistanis of those areas where not only peace is fragile but foreign investment is direly needed.
Since 2011 Pakistan ranks second in the countries where out-of-school children’s ratio is high. It is an alarming situation for a country like Pakistan where basic education is provided free of cost in government run schools.
It shows that people need something more than free education. The hurdle between school buildings and out-of-school children is the issue of low per capita income in Pakistan. According to World Bank report Pakistan ranks 141st regarding per capita income. The issue of low per capita income compels the parents not to send their children to schools even when the basic education is provided free of cost in the government run schools. These out-of-schools children are employed in the market that is why Pakistan is facing the issue of child labour too. According to ILO, the number of child labourers in Pakistan exceeded 12 million in 2012.
The multilayer folded problems of Pakistan also creates opportunities for the foreign investors in Pakistan to start joint ventures in the fields of education, especially science as well as skills oriented education, industrialization and agriculture. Joint ventures (Public-private and private-private) in the field of industrialization can solve the issue of low per capita income. An increase in the per capita income will generate the opportunities in schooling system too.
The dying public educational system of Pakistan cannot provide quality education as well as skills oriented education. Instead of 25% private investment in Pakistani education sector still this sector can absorb more investment. Turkey is taking keen interest and its delegations have visited different chambers of commerce in Pakistan. Pak-Turk schools are already started in various cities of Pakistan and that is a successful project. Every year almost more than one hundred talented students are selected from various Pak-Turk schools all over Pakistan for an educational tour of Turkey. These students visit the schools and universities of Turkey. As of 2010, eighteen branches of PakTurk International Schools and Colleges are operating in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Khairpur, Multan, Peshawar and Quetta, with a total student population of more than 7000.
But the Turk investment is mainly concentrated in the areas where well established educational as well as industrial setups are present. This creates opportunities for countries like China to invest in the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, tribal belts and Balochistan. Standard educational institutions are direly needed here in these areas. At minimum a full-fledged running school can generate income of one million rupees. It seems a very small amount to attract the attention of investors but in the long run this Chinese contribution in education in the areas where terrorism is flourishing will also help China to eliminate the shelters of Turkestan Islamic Movement. Secondly the waves of education will also cause in the promotion of peace in the region where Chinese workers and engineers are targeted.
Due to lack of job opportunities most of the young men of these areas flee to Arab countries for jobs. Though these people are sending money back to homes resulting in an increase in the foreign exchange but now the changing rules regulations in gulf states are discouraging foreign labour. Therefore cheap labour is also available in abundance in these areas.
Presently the underground unexplored mineral resources in these areas can attract the Chinese investors to take the initiatives. The way Chinese backing boosted African mineral industry the same can be applied in mineral rich areas of Pakistan. Chinese Land and Resources ministry also wants to boost Chinese overseas mining investment. The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources of Pakistan has worked out an exploration plan last month. Therefore joint venture opportunities are available in such projects.
Similarly the vast uncultivated areas in KPK, tribal belt and Balochistan can also be taken on lease to produce such crops which are raw material for agricultural based factories. In 2009 Pakistan was offering one million acres of farmland, protected by a special security force, for lease or sale to countries seeking to secure their food supplies. Chinese investment in agriculture in Pakistan on the pattern of China‘s cooperation in African and Australian agriculture will not only provide jobs to the people but it will also solve the food problems of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The multilayered problems of Pakistan need the assistance of regional powers to overcome them. Chinese help is always welcomed in Pakistan but the areas, where neither industries nor educational networks are present, desperately need the attention of Chinese investors. Chinese industrial base near silk route will give it an upper hand against India to reach Central Asian markets.