PAKISTAN has been grappling with escalating challenges across economic, fiscal, social and environmental domains. Key economic indicators have persistently declined, with depleting foreign exchange reserves, consistently negative balance of payments, as well as alarming trade deficits alongside dwindling exports.

Out of many vital revenue-generating entities, industrial sectors face significant challenges that are compounded by widening power outages and uncertain food supply security. High inflation and escalating unemployment further exacerbate the already deteriorating situation, demanding attention to the health and education sectors. Besides, population explosion presents a critical issue requiring immediate action. Structural reforms across these sectors are imperative to achieve the desired outcomes.

Truly, the newly-elected government, tasked with addressing these challenges, must prioritise concrete measures. However, concerns arise regarding the government’s capability and competence, given the presence of familiar faces that were part of past administrations who could not deliver effectively. Public hope for improvement dwindles amidst scepticism about the government’s ability to enact a meaningful change. While securing a broader and long-term agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) remains a crucial aspect, addressing other significant economic issues is equally vital.

In this backdrop, a pivotal area that demands immediate attention is the development of science and technology. As such, to bolster global competitiveness across all economic sectors, simultaneous advancements in environmental, technological infrastructure and related sectors are imperative. The government needs to facilitate the commercialisation of selected technologies through effective collaboration between research and development (R&D) and industrial sectors. While acknowledging the significant role of technology and engineering

in facilitating industrialisation, there remains a gap in the national direction.

Moreover, technology and engineering translate scientific knowledge into actionable solutions, catalysing needed economic sector growth. However, the absence of a facilitative environment for their development hinders progress. Pakistan has lacked a comprehensive industrial policy and a robust science and technology policy for nearly two decades, relegating these rather crucial sectors to the sidelines in government planning.

Other than lip-service and high-level planning, these sectors have not received the priority they deserve. For instance, the National Commission for Science and Technology (NCST), tasked with promoting scientific as well as techno-logical development, has remained inactive for an extended period.

In today’s rapidly evolving economic landscape, technology not only serves as a crucial driver of growth, but also fosters business transformation and creates new development opportunities. Additionally, its positive impacts include productivity enhancement, market expansion and growth of gross domestic product (GDP). However, Pakistan’s science, technology and innovation ecosystem lags behind compared to peers like Iran and Turkiye. Unfortunately, implementation of the National Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy 2022 has been limited, primarily due to political instability and lack of political will.

To rectify this situation, the current government needs to start afresh with a clear vision and long-term plan. The sooner it is done, the better it will be.

Hussain Ahmad Siddiqui
Islamabad

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

Elections in India
Updated 21 Apr, 2024

Elections in India

Independent accounts and spot reports are at variance with Modi-friendly TV anchors and they do not see an easy victory for the Indian premier.
IHC letter
21 Apr, 2024

IHC letter

THIS is a historic opportunity for the judiciary to define its institutional boundaries. It must not be squandered....
Olympic preparations
21 Apr, 2024

Olympic preparations

THIS past week marked the beginning of the 100-day countdown to the Paris Olympics, with the symbolic torch-lighting...
Isfahan strikes
Updated 20 Apr, 2024

Isfahan strikes

True de-escalation means Israel must start behaving like a normal state, not a rogue nation that threatens the entire region.
President’s speech
20 Apr, 2024

President’s speech

PRESIDENT Asif Ali Zardari seems to have managed to hit all the right notes in his address to the joint sitting of...
Karachi terror
20 Apr, 2024

Karachi terror

IS urban terrorism returning to Karachi? Yesterday’s deplorable suicide bombing attack on a van carrying five...