Youth development

Published July 20, 2023
The writer is a development expert and project coordinator Sindh in a donor-funded project.
The writer is a development expert and project coordinator Sindh in a donor-funded project.

WHAT stops Pakistan from becoming a developed country? Why is Pakistan not emerging from poverty? How will Pakistan embark on the track to success? What is the reason behind Balochistan’s non-development? When will the poverty-stricken people of Pakistan enjoy economic peace? Why are deaths by suicide and suicide attempts in Sindh, particularly Tharparkar, not decreasing? How will Sindh become a society which does not feel ‘honour’ in killing its women? Why are members of the Hindu community often looted and kidnapped by bandits? These questions and their like are at the centre of discussions being held in many formal and informal national meet-ups.

Interestingly, UNDP’s Pakistan National Human Development Report says that over 64 per cent of the country’s population is under 30 years (29pc aged between 15 and 29 years), showing that responsibility for the development and sustainability of the country lies on the shoulders of our huge young population.

Sadly, this youth bulge has not been made a part of policymaking in Pakistan whether in climate change, development or education programmes or in IT initiatives and entrepreneurship policy. What will happen to this 64pc of Pakistan’s population? Why do they have no room to work in the country? What is forcing so many of them to move out of the country? These are questions which put a big question mark against the role of the authorities.

Pakistan is blessed with abundant tangible and intangible resources whether it is in the form of flora and fauna, culture, history, intellectuality, innovation or folk wisdom, but somehow, since the beginning, these resources are being wasted or leaving the country in the form of brain drain. The Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment revealed that in 2022, over 765,000 Pakistanis — with talent and potential — left the country for greener pastures overseas. The authorities concerned must ponder over means and strategies to retain this talent.

SMEs must be helped through financial support.

Small and medium enterprises — small-scale businesses operating at a lower level — play the role of catalyst in a country’s economic development and growth. According to the State Bank, Pakistan has more than five million SMEs which contribute 40pc to GDP and 25pc to the country’s exports.

It is true that Pakistan is largely an agrarian economy. However, the SME sector is providing earning opportunities to the highest percentage of the working segment, contributing to 78pc of employment outside the agricultural sector. The contribution of SMEs can be seen in the reduction of poverty and in increased opportunities for development. Loans and grants can boost the overall capacity building of SMEs so that they can operate confidently and meet the needs of the consumer market.

It is imperative that the government develop a sound strategy which aims at building the capacity of our youth by establishing or growing small businesses’ leadership in the areas of IT, agriculture, livestock, water, health, food and infrastructure development.

The best plan is one that builds on a participatory approach and that seeks input from the youth themselves during the process of drafting a policy or designing a project or programme. This will have a positive impact on the youth as well as the rest of the population.

Small businesses must be helped through the provision of financial support. Those at the helm must realise that the reason why many startups and SMEs are unsuccessful — anywhere in the world — is because of their fear of failure, and financial debts. Financial support, then, must come in the form of a grant, not loan.

Moreover, universities in Pakistan have a very critical role to play towards this cause. They can help in exercising the ‘triple helix’ approach — which is about interaction between government, business and academia — for improving the quality of earning through running SMEs. Also, as a country committed to realising the Sustainable Development Goals, new development initiatives in Pakistan must be aligned with at least one of the SDGs.

True, time is running out, resources are diminishing, and the population is increasing. But what is better for the survival of the masses lies in the promotion of the SME culture in Pakistan. There are around 7,900,000 SMEs in Bangladesh which are contributing to inclusive development and business growth that is leading to increased GDP. Pakistan must also rethink its SME sector and facilitate those involved in this field. The government would do well to uplift Pakistan’s economy and growth by empowering the youth through SMEs.

The writer is a development expert and project coordinator Sindh in a donor-funded project.

furqanhyders@gmail.com

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2023

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