Chinese investment in Pakistan will address region’s deeper problems

By Farman Nawaz Source:Global Times Published: 2014-2-9 19:13:01

Since 2011, Pakistan has ranked second in the list of countries with the most children not attending school. It is an alarming situation for a country like Pakistan, where basic education is free in government-run schools.

The problem is related to low per capita income in Pakistan. According to a World Bank report, Pakistan ranks 141st in terms of per capita income. This compels parents not to send their children to schools even when basic education is free.

These out-of-school children are employed in markets, which is why Pakistan is also facing a child labor problem. According to the International Labour Organization, the number of child laborers in Pakistan exceeded 12 million in 2012.

The multilayered problems of Pakistan also create opportunities for foreign investors in Pakistan in the fields of education, especially science, as well as skill-oriented education, industrialization and agriculture.

Joint ventures in the field of industrialization can solve the issue of low per capita income, which will also generate opportunities in the schooling system.

Pakistan’s dying public education system cannot provide quality or skill-oriented education. This sector can still absorb more investment.

Turkey is taking a keen interest and its delegations have visited different chambers of commerce in Pakistan. Pakistani-Turkish schools have already been successfully established in various cities of Pakistan.

Every year, more than 100 talented students are selected from various Pakistani-Turkish schools all over Pakistan to go on an educational tour of Turkey.

As of 2010, 18 branches of Pakistani-Turkish international schools and colleges are operating in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Khairpur, Multan, Peshawar and Quetta, with a total student population exceeding 7,000.

But the Turkish investment is mainly concentrated in areas where a well established educational and industrial infrastructure is present. This creates opportunities for countries like China to invest in the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), the tribal belts and Balochistan.

Standard educational institutions are direly needed in these areas. The amount of revenue generated from a fully running school may be small, but in the long run, the Chinese contribution to education in areas where terrorism is flourishing will also benefit China and the entire region.

Due to a lack of job opportunities, most young men in these areas flee to Arab countries for jobs. These people are sending money back to their homes, resulting in an increase in foreign exchange. But changing rules in Gulf states are discouraging foreign labor. As a result, cheap labor is also available in abundance in these areas.

At present, unexplored mineral resources in these areas are attracting Chinese investors. The way Chinese backing boosted the African mineral industry can also be applied in mineral-rich areas of Pakistan. The Chinese Ministry of Land and Resources also wants to boost Chinese overseas mining investment. The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources of Pakistan worked out an exploration plan last month, creating opportunities for joint ventures.

Similarly, the vast uncultivated areas in KPK, the tribal belt and Balochistan can also be taken on lease to produce raw materials for agriculture-based factories.

In 2009, Pakistan offered 1 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 based on the pattern of China’s cooperation in African and Australian agriculture will not only provide jobs, but also solve the food problems of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Pakistan needs the assistance of regional powers to overcome its multilayered problems. Chinese help is always welcome in Pakistan, but areas where neither industries nor educational networks are present desperately need the attention of Chinese investors.

The author is a Pakistani columnist and runs an Urdu Weekly newspaper in Pakistan.

Posted in: Viewpoint

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