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ISLAMABAD: Speakers at a conference while urging the government’s immediate attention to resolve the energy crisis in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) region have said that the perpetual energy crisis in the region is a serious issue.

Speaking on the final day of the conference hosted by the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), in collaboration with the Karakoram International University (KIU), they underscored that there are several legal framework issues that are contributing to the problem. One of the main issues is the delay in government approvals, which is generating further issues, they said.

This delay is causing a lack of new investors due to government regulations, which is hindering progress in the region. In order to address this problem, there needs to be an independent legal framework that can support the development of energy projects in Gilgit.

This framework should prioritise proper management transparency to ensure that the projects are developed in a responsible manner. Additionally, Gilgit is facing multiple crises, including infrastructure issues, political issues, and demand-side issues. It is important to generate community-based initiatives that can help address these issues.

Speaking on the occasion, Lire Ersado, a representative of the World Bank, while presenting the “World Bank: State of Human Capital in Pakistan,” said that Pakistan needs to create safe and supportive schools. It can reap dividends from two phases of the demographic transition.

As Pakistan's working-age population is about 60 percent time to reap demographic transition. Pakistan can reverse 40 years of lagging growth and become a growth leader by investing in human capital, he said.

He further said that Pakistan's human capital complex is much lower than expected, given the level of economic development, it can increase GDP growth up to 144 percent by slowing population growth, making sure child is in school, and ensuring basic nutrition.

Vice Chancellor (VC) PIDE Dr Nadeemul Haque said that the inclusion of society is a critical factor in the development process. It is essential to ensure that development initiatives are for the people, by the people, and for the people. To achieve sustainable development, it is crucial to involve the local community in every step of the process. Female entrepreneurship is a vital component of development. Women are essential contributors to the economy, and their participation in business ventures can lead to significant growth and development.

He further said that democratic values and good governance are indispensable for society to prosper. Good governance does not only refer to political leaders but also all levels of institutions. It is essential to ensure that institutions are transparent, accountable, and responsive to the needs of the people they serve. Conversations matter in the development process.

Dialogue and engagement with the community can lead to better outcomes and foster trust between communities and development organisations. Deep restructuring is necessary in G-B to ensure sustainable development. This requires a comprehensive and integrated approach to development that addresses the root causes of poverty and inequality.

Panel discussion on “Markets, Regulations and Border Trade” was moderated by Dr Ahmed Waqas where speakers from G-B shed light on how markets, regulations, and border trade can contribute to the economy.

Aziz Ali Dad said that, as it is widely known, there are two prominent models in the political and economic spheres: socialist and liberal. The West has predominantly embraced the latter, which prioritises limited government involvement in the markets and allows for their development.

However, Pakistan's economic landscape is quite different, with the government's presence being prevalent, accounting for 70 percent of the economy which has resulted in high costs of regulations. As for the region of G-B, there are restrictions on visiting the border, making it challenging to explore its potential resources and do border trade with other countries.

Nonetheless, the area is rich in resources, making it a promising region for development. In light of this, it is important to identify ways to reduce the government's footprint and encourage private sector participation, which is currently at 20 percent, to help boost the economy and promote growth.

Other speakers said that G-B is an exceptional destination that offers much more than just tourism. Our focus is on enhancing its market structure, including the real estate market. However, government regulations have made it challenging for us to develop the land. Unfortunately, the lack of a proper market concept and strict government regulations deter new entrepreneurs from entering the market. As a result, we are committed to addressing these challenges to pave the way for a more prosperous business landscape.

Dr Ahmed Waqas stressed the need for paying special attention to the main markets, tourism, construction, and education in the region. He also said that like other places, Gilgit Baltistan is also facing regulatory problems.

While moderating the session “Education for Next Century” Dr Shujaat Farooq, Dean, PIDE said that countries that invest in education tend to have higher rates of economic growth and social progress. According to statistics, 40 per cent of children have no access to basic education. This lack of access is a major obstacle to development in Pakistan, as it deprives individuals and communities of the tools they need to succeed.

In Gilgit, Pakistan, the labour market is in decline. However, there are four potential areas where the region can excel: leisure industry, horticulture, trade and commerce, and minerals as well as education. Unfortunately, there is no clear education policy in place to help support these areas.

Therefore, there is a need for educational reforms in Gilgit to improve the quality of education and equip students with the skills they need to succeed in these fields.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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