Tapping tech to create jobs for youth

Suhail Galadari, Director of Galadari Brothers, with Fawad Chaudhry, Pakistan's Minister for Science and Technology
Suhail Galadari, Director of Galadari Brothers, with Fawad Chaudhry, Pakistan's Minister for Science and Technology

The country is witnessing a revival in various industries, says Fawad Chaudhry, Pakistan's Minister for Science and Technology

By Waheed Abbas

Published: Sun 22 Mar 2020, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Mon 23 Mar 2020, 1:00 AM

Pakistan is shifting its focus towards manufacturing-based economy. To achieve this target, Islamabad plans to set up a huge biotechnology economic zone that will create jobs in the technology sector for the youth and also increase the share of technology exports from the South Asian country, according to Chaudhry.

He urged overseas Pakistan to invest in technology, science, education, biotechnology and precision agriculture.
"We are coming up with a plan of $30 billion exports through science and technology as want 4% of GDP to come through biotechnology in Pakistan. In the city of Jehlum, we are building South Asia's biggest biotechnology special economic zone, focused on herbal medicine research and development," said Chaudhry.

"With a population of 220 million, the country cannot be a service economy based on manufacturing. Since 60% of the population is under 25 years old, we need jobs for them. In the past 17 months, we have shifted the focus back on manufacturing with exports getting special relief packages. We are working on incentives for technology businesses to come and manufacture phones in Pakistan," said the minister in a recent interview at the Khaleej Times office.

According to International Monetary Fund figures, unemployment rate in Pakistan is 6.2%.

Cooperation with the UAE
In order to achieve ambitions in the field of technology and space, the minister said that he is looking forward to increased cooperation with the UAE in the field of space. In July 2019, Chaudhry had announced that Pakistan will send its first astronaut to space in 2022. The minister added that the country is also working on alternative energy solutions to meet growing demands.
"We have offered Chinese companies to build a manufacturing plant for solar panels and lithium batteries.

Pakistan will also be the first country in South Asia to manufacture electronic buses. The work on setting up the plant will begin this year, unless affected by the current Covid-19 situation," he said.
Chaudhry revealed that four companies in the process of building electronic rickshaws and bikes to help reduce environment pollution from two-three wheelers.

While replying to question about ease of doing business, the minister said that it is one of the focus areas of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

"We are also planning to bring a new regime of standardisation in key sectors such as food, manufacturing, automobiles, electronics, etc. Work on the standardisation of hospitals and schools has started and we hope to achieve big success," he added.

The minister noted that in addition to space, the country is also looking at increased cooperation in the field of museums and precision agriculture.

"We are keen to develop museum and future strategies, and are working closely with the UAE on these issues. We would also like to enhance cooperation in the space sector with the UAE as it has just opened up a space university. I would like the UAE space university to sign MoUs with Pakistani universities as we plan to send our first manned mission in space in 2022 and would appreciate the UAE's cooperation in the mission. We can also offer land and expertise to UAE-based companies who want to come to Pakistan and invest in precision agriculture," Chaudhry said.

The minister noted that he is keen on B2B deals in order to expedite the process of increased investments between the two countries.

Soft image of Pakistan
The minister pointed out that the film, drama and cinema industry is reviving fast in the South Asian country and is adding to the country's soft image on a global level.

"Until 1969, Pakistan was not just one of the biggest producers of films, we had around 3,000 cinema screens. Unfortunately, after 1971, especially due to Afghan war, the cruelty of geography hit us hard. In 2005, we went to zero film-making, which showed a rapid decline of the industry. We revived it and now have 200 cinema screens across the country. Films are back in business. TV serials of Pakistan have always been one of the biggest drama industries in the region, and that is also seeing strong revival," Chaudhry said.

Dubai recently hosted the inaugural edition of the Pakistan International Screen Awards (Pisa), which saw a strong turnout of Pakistani diaspora and other South Asian community members. "People joined from all walks of life - not just from Pakistan, but also members of other South Asia communities also joined in. I want to congratulate the organisers for hosting such a mega event," he said.

Chaudhry added that the country is witnessing revival across other spectrums as well.
"After a long war against extremism and terrorism, we are back in the saddle. We have just resumed cricket in Pakistan after the 2006 incident. Security has improved quite a lot and Pakistan cities are much safer now," he added.

- waheedabbas@khaleejtimes.com

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