Technology is the power of knowledge and software development is the latest tool to spur economic growth in any country. At the moment, eight out of 10 largest software companies are located in the United States with billions of dollars annual sale. The budgets and profits of some companies are larger than the annual budgets of countries like Pakistan and this is due to their focus and concentration in research and development.
No country can develop its economy until it invests heavily in education, especially in science and technology. As a matter of fact technology means business in the modern age. Pakistan is blessed with young population, but their ability, capacity and utility as engine of growth has been ignored. Regardless of the past history when dictatorship was in place on some occasions, the country’s political elite has miserably failed to set priorities and devise growth-oriented policies to alleviate the economic woes.
Pakistan has been facing the conditions and situation not different from the countries which are now developed, but had been in worst conditions at a point of time in their histories. Many of the countries like Singapore, Turkey and South Korea started their journeys from very basic level and have managed to build great economies in a few years, thanks to the efforts of their visionary leaders, management and commitment. In Pakistan’s case, development of economy is not miles away, as it is already at a stage where only management and commitment is required for the takeoff.
Pakistan has already a strong industrial base in the form of cottage industry, but the country has been facing acute and chronic energy crisis for decades. Keeping in view the dynamics of the modern economy with reference to the ground realities, the nation does not afford heavy industry at the moment due to shortage of electricity and there will be no magic wand in the hands of the new government to add thousands of megawatts in the system with one go. However, the government has better options to generate income by going to the technologically advanced industries such as software engineering.
There is billions of dollars software market in the world and Pakistan can grab its share with little efforts. Pakistan produces thousands of software engineers in hundreds of information technology institutes across the country. Hundreds of thousands of young professionals are already working for their foreign clients and earning over $2 billion annually without any government support. However, the market can be increased to $100 billion with effective management and planning.
The Indian software industry has already crossed the $110 billion mark despite incompetency of its experts at various levels and it is a well-known fact in the circles of software engineers and information technology. The global software market is vast and has the potential to absorb new entrants. Only over a dozen US and South Korean companies have an annual sale of $1.7 trillion. China has one of the largest shares in the export market and generates billions of dollars every year.
The best part of the information technology sector is that it does not require physical handling of the export goods at any level. The buyer of the software product is a click away and there is only need to develop trust in him.
The government needs to set up information technology parks and software valleys in different parts of the country with complete infrastructure from roads to buildings, and availability of electricity 24/7 along with high speed Wi-Fi connections. The infrastructure projects will stimulate the construction industry in Pakistan. At least 80 industries are directly or indirectly related to the construction sector. Only the start of infrastructure projects will push up the Gross Domestic Growth to new pinnacles.
It is a good omen that Pakistan already has a vibrant construction industry and is doing well in the business. Infrastructure is the basic requirement to invite foreign investors. After the development of infrastructure, the companies should be invited with guarantees of not only the protection of their capital, but also life and property. They should be given solid guarantees by all stakeholders in the country in line with the national and international laws.
All the international institutions, including legal, business and trade organisations should be involved in signing of investment contracts to develop trust in the Pakistani government and ensure the protection of interests of all the stakeholders concerned. In doing so, one point must be kept in mind that bureaucratic circles of Pakistan are not ‘ready’ to accept new realities. They are in the habit of creating hurdles and making things difficult and vague to keep investors at bay. A new narrative is required to mend their ways and they should simply be told that enough is enough. They have been playing with the country’s past and should not be allowed to play with its future.
A paradigm shift in the government policy must inform them that any bureaucratic hurdle will not be tolerated at any stage. The facility of one window operation for foreign companies and individual investors means the work should be done in a day or two and the officials should be held responsible for any delay. There is also need to simplify tax procedure, making it as simple as paying monthly utility bills.
The new government has ambitious plans to develop the country and this suggestion (establishing software, IT parks) will definitely improve not only the financial health of economy, but will be a leap forward to lower the trade deficit, increase exports and keep the foreign exchange reserves at comfortable level.
The government will have to prod Pakistan’s mission abroad as most of them have lost their utility and are burden on the taxpayers’ money. The mission heads and commercial attachés need to be awakened from deep slumber as they are the victims of monotony and hibernation. Until someone in Islamabad takes daily business report from them, the whole software project will be a futile exercise. The principle is: the government will have to act as facilitator and not as a partner in the business. All the business firms, concerns, companies and corporation should be either a private business or owned by local and foreigner entrepreneurs.