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ISLAMABAD: Speakers at a conference, while stressing the need for implementing strategic economic and development reforms in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) region, have said that small landholders are playing a critical role in the regional economy; therefore, land reforms must be focused on smallholders to get maximum benefit from resources.

Addressing a two-day conference jointly organised by the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), in collaboration with the Pakistan Society of Development Economists (PSDE) and Karakoram International University (KIU), they said that vision for G-B should be to save the entire region’s ecosystem.

They emphasised, “If we do not save it, we will lose it, and this region will no longer be unique. Lack of access to essential services such as education and healthcare has resulted in reducing economic opportunities”.

Speaking on the occasion, Abdul Khalid Khurshid, Chief Minister G-B, while emphasising the importance of the rule of law for any societal development, said that smallholder farmers in G-B played a vital role in the region’s economy.

However, to help them unlock their true potential, the region’s government needs to introduce targeted measures to increase their productivity in terms of agriculture and livestock.

He said “the government must focus on improving resource management to achieve this. Land reforms must be implemented strategically to allow for efficient use of resources such as water, fertiliser, and soil conservation methods so that small farmers can make the most out of their land. The most significant source for such reforms lies within our own minds. By utilising our intellect effectively, we can create meaningful policies that ensure a better future for all in G-B.”

Dr Nadeemul Haque, Vice-Chancellor (VC) PIDE said the conference on the Vision for G-B was a unique opportunity to focus on the development of the region. The conference aimed at creating an agenda to shape the future of the G-B region and ensure its prosperity.

Dr Durre Nayab, Pro VC of PIDE, explained the vision behind collaborative efforts under the banner of the PIDE conference “Gilgit-Baltistan Beyond Mountains.”

A major focus of this conference is to meet and greet local people discuss their issues and come up with a solution that just is community-driven development.

Prof Dr Atta Ullah Shah, Vice Chancellor of KIU, said the vision for G-B should be to save the entire region’s ecosystem. “If we do not save it, we will lose it, and this region will no longer be unique.”

Earlier, in his online address, Shoaib Sultan Khan said the development of G-B had been hindered by several obstacles, with poverty being the main issue.

“Poverty has led to a lack of access to essential services such as education and healthcare and has caused a decrease in economic opportunities. As a result, many people cannot rise above the subsistence level and escape poverty.”

In the session of the “Charter of the Economy,” speakers stated that it was essential that the focus be placed on rural development in G-B. “We always learn from people, so sit with the local people, discuss their issues and vision, and help them achieve that vision instead of coming up with it.”

They also said that “you couldn’t provide certainty when there is a weak rule of law, which is why we cannot use resources properly. But, unfortunately, Pakistan is bitten by bureaucracy. If you have a real representation of government, you have a grip on democracy.”

The panelists further stated that “we donor have constitutional rights and that G-B is the only region with no separation movements because it loves Pakistan.”

The people of G-B have always been sandwiched in political wars, and its economy is zero. “Until G-B gets representation in the federal government, it will not pay taxes, and if it does not pay taxes its economy will never grow,” it added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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