AT this critical juncture in our collective journey as a nation, we need critical decisions. The focus should be on getting rid of the bleeding public-sector entities, and to control the trade deficit. There are several other issues, like corruption and terrorism, that the new government has to face. The key to facing the rather daunting challenges is to prioritise issues step by step by identifying core concerns that can change the country’s destiny within the shortest possible time. No rocket science is involved here at all. It is like managing an industrial concern that has a workforce of 240 million people in unskilled, semi-skilled and highly-skilled categories.

The top-most priority should be accorded to efforts aimed at improving the quality of huge human resource at our disposal. This is our real strength as human resource represents an asset that is more precious than petrodollar because much less investment is required to tap the former than the latter, while the latter also carries a massive element of risk.

As things stand, an unskilled worker cannot afford three meals per day for the family in these times of hyperinflation. A skilled worker, however, can comfortably afford to dish out, say, Rs3,000 on a single meal per head. This indicates that the core issue is not inflation, but a lack of productive value-added job opportunities.

Creating such opportunities is not as difficult as some might think. One method is to encourage value-added finished goods instead of exporting raw material, like cotton and leather. Similarly, in the food sector, branded consumer packing exporters should be motivated, and bulk shippers should be discouraged as it will generate produc- tive employment opportunities as well as enhance foreign exchange earnings.

A committee comprising the recipients of tax excellence awards should be formed to brainstorm and produce a strategy to create maximum productive job oppor- tunities for unskilled, semi-skilled and highly-skilled categories of the national workforce. This task can be managed efficiently, and we must consider it seriously.

Siddik S. Jaangda
Karachi

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2024

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