Pakistan is the 6th largest country in the world and ideally to be ranked among the top ten countries of the world in GDP, exports, innovation and per capita income which force us to have a charter of innovation for Pakistan .
Pakistan ranks among bottom 20-30 countries in various indices among 200 countries mostly participate in various global surveys. This is reflected by the Global competitive index ranking Pakistan at 115th among 140 countries in 2018.
Innovation in Pakistan
The innovation in the country can be measured through export growth in the competitive market. Pakistan export stands at 20 billion USD whereas it should have crossed 300 billion USD. This level of export growth has been achieved by many countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Turkey.
Pakistan survival is at serious risk if such economic targets are not achieved. These economic targets are absolutely not possible without providing an innovation ecosystem and investing heavily in R&D to make the industry competitiveness.
The Lost Path
Back in the 1960s Pakistan was competitive or at par with countries around. Pakistan set up more than 200 R&D organizations to support industry and enhance export back in 1960-1970. Pakistan exports were ahead of Turkey and Korea and little behind Malaysia, Singapore and India 1960. Now as per World Bank Data 2017 presented in below figure 01, Pakistan exports are many time behind these countries. Korea was behind Pakistan and now have merchandise exports around 573 billion USD as compared to 21 billion USD by Pakistan.
Pakistan and Dubai were not comparable three decades before and not comparable today too. The lagged behind has left Pakistan behind and grew to great heights emerging a global economic centre.
Why We Lost?
Many countries have similar problems like Pakistan but continued to observe growth due to political stability. Unfortunately Pakistan missed policy consistency. This inconsistency led to very less investment in R&D by Pakistan.
The table 01 shows Pakistan ranked among the bottom 20 countries as Global Competitive Index is 115 out of 140 countries in GCI report 2017-2018.
Pakistan averagely spent 0.27% of GDP in the last 20 years where as rest of the growing countries doubled or tripled their spending. India average investment is 0.76% and in 2017 it invested 0.83% of GDP in the R&D. Korea average R&D spending of last 20 years is 3.02% whereas in 2017 it spent 4.23% of GDP.
The same trend and R&D priority is observed by other countries like Turkey, Malaysia and Singapore. Therefore these countries observed a high export growth rate ranging from 200-500 Billion USD. The advanced countries like Japan, Germany, USA and China are spending 2%-3% of GDP on R&D and leading the export front of the world. The global competitive index of these countries is very high.
Pakistan is left behind in exports and other economic indicators because of just spending 0.27% on R&D backed by policy inconsistency and political instability.
The Moments of National Consensus
Pakistan did a good job at a number of occasions by demonstrating political consensus and national will to achieve some big goals. The constitution of Pakistan is a gift of political unity demonstrated by all parties and driven by then Prime Minister Mr. ZA Bhutto. The nuclear research was started in the late 50s in Pakistan when Pakistan set up 6 S&T organizations to do cutting edge research.
Pakistan was ahead of many countries in S&T initiatives in that period. The nuclear technology for the defense was based on the last 10 years research works and initiated again by ZA Bhutto. The project observed policy consistency by all the governments, political and military leadership. This national unity made Pakistan 6th nuclear power.
Pakistan suffered a lot due to escalating terrorism inside and at borders also. Many countries are still stuck in fighting with terrorism. Pakistan again achieved political unity and all parties along with military and social leadership decided to get rid of this illness. This unity backed military operations and Pakistan succeeded in combating the terrorism.
Now Pakistan is a good example and role model for other countries to fight against terrorism successfully. Recently another act of national unity is observed by all political parties for the right of people in FATA. The FATA merger has been successful in KP province and now remaining measured are being taken.
These incidents clearly reflect the power of national unity and ability of Pakistani nation to achieve great milestones together and jointly.
The Charter of Innovation for Pakistan
The survival is only by national unity to promote science and technology culture that can lead to many fold export increase. The jump from 20 to 300 billion USD export is not possible without a national drive to achieve it. We propose that charter of innovation for Pakistan is to be signed by all parties present in parliament.
This will increase the respect for parliament and promote its role as a national savior in the times of crisis. The political leadership must drive innovation in the country through leadership, legislation, policy making, god governance, total merit and creating respect for science and technology.
All political parties may be invited to show agreement for following four broad areas:
- All political parties join hands for S&T development regardless of political difference
- S&T development should be made as a national priority and advocated by the national leadership
- Political leadership needs to get involved in activities to promote science culture in the society
- Every MNA to be encouraged to visit schools of the constituency, spend time with students and take such measures to promote science culture in schools
- The media industry to be encouraged to launch “one science hour” daily
- The parliamentary committee for science and technology must be activated and strengthened
- Parliament members to be briefed about the state of S&T in Pakistan and taken measures
- Training forum of the national assembly to be tasked to train members of national assembly on science and technology policy
- S&T related new reforms and bills to be supported on a priority basis by all parties
- Quarterly review of the progress of S&T institutions to be presented in the parliament for inputs and debate
- Intellectual property rights laws to be made and updated
- Legal system to be developed and strengthened to protect rights of scientists and inventors
- Science and technology needs to be treated as national priority and policy consistency to be ensured by all Governments
- National Commission on science and technology to be activated and strengthened
- Government to be encouraged to provide hassle – free funding and not make cuts on S&T budgets
- S&T institutions to be made free of any political involvements and to be dealt totally on merit
- Intellectual property rights to be strengthened and fully enforced
- IPO office to be strengthened and redeveloped as dynamic office
- S&T institutions to be governed by independent boards for higher efficiency and effectiveness
- International S&T linkages to be spearhead by various committees of the parliament
- All political parties should encourage members to have close linkages with universities and S&T institutions
- The parliament committees to be encouraged to involve national scientists for policy research and detailed analysis to make good effective laws and policies
- Political parties may involve university professors to give inputs for a political manifesto to better serves the common man
- Government of Pakistan must spare a minimum 1% -3% of GDP to support ongoing R&D activities in the countries.
- Every constituency of each MNA must conduct science festivals of schools kids in the area
The world has observed policy consistency and national unity as instrumental for development in the case of China, Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia etc. These countries have registered this progress in last 2-3 three decades. Europe was badly hit by World War II and rose again in few decades. Pakistan got independence in 1947 just after two years of WWII but could not catch up in last seven decades.
- Will political parties keep fight with each other’s, continue to drive instability and waste more time of this nation?
- Does this nation have more time to waste?
- Will political parties exercise some prototyping of developing consensus on important issues and ensure stability and long term commitment?
- Can we pilot political consensus on science and technology development and show agreement to drive it together?
We think we can build a national consensus on S&T led innovation growth and build an innovative Pakistan. The political parties, civil services, social sector, media, industry and other power houses of Pakistan will show consent to make Pakistan stand among top 50 innovative countries of the world.
Author: Rahmat Ullah, Chief Coordinator, IRP, Secretary-General, South Asia Triple Helix Association, and Manager ORIC, UMT – firstname.lastname@example.org