Prime Minster Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, while addressing Boao forum claimed that Pakistan is standing at the doorstep of fourth industrial revolution and the country will join the comity of industrialized nations in 2050. He said that the country’s economy is growing at 6 percent GDP growth rate and Gawadar port will become a hub of international trade. He predicted that the Western countries’ led world economic order is declining and Asia led world order is emerging. He said that Special Economic Zones SEZs) are part and parcel of CEPEC.
There is no denying the fact that China led new world order is in the making and CPEC is a flagship project of Belt and Road initiative. It will facilitate bulk of Chinese foreign trade to the Middle East Africa and Europe through Gawadar port. But global trade alone can not bring fourth industrial revolution in Pakistan for which no long term plan has been conceived. The Chairman State Engineering Corporation has cautioned the business leaders to move from the present second generation technology to 5th generation technology to get joint ventures with Chinese entrepreneurs in SEZs. How such a big technological gap can be filled within the next few years when both the government and private sector has not paid any attention to the introduction of new technologies and their indigenization in the civilian goods industries. The application of sophisticated technologies in the war goods industry of Pakistan is satisfactorily moving ahead. The nationalization of industries and private banks in Z.A Bhutto government discouraged that initiative in the private sector. The succeeding governments did not revive it.
Direct foreign investment with technology transfer is attracted towards favorable economic environment comprising cheap energy inputs, progressive taxation structure, highly skilled man power and efficient and transparent decision making mechanism of the government. India benefited form the outsourcing of industries from the western countries due to the availability of highly skilled manpower, low electricity tariff, straightforward tax system and transparency in decision making process. Japan outsourced its automobile and electronic goods industries to Malaysia because of the availability of high quality human resource and attractive economic environment. None of these factors and incentives exists in Pakistan. That is why China is insisting on 75 percent tariff lines at zero duty for its exports to Pakistan in the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) phase-II. They feel that the technological base and manpower of Pakistan is not mature enough to absorb the modern Chinese technology to be transferred with the civilian goods industries that were intended to be relocated to the proposed SEZs under the CPEC framework.
Majority of the Pakistan universities of engineering and technology and institutions of technical and vocational training produce engineers and technicians who could not handle the high tech instruments and machines. The science and engineering graduates of Pakistani universities feel handicapped during the pursuit of MS, M Phil and Doctoral programs to use modern instruments in foreign universities when asked by their supervisors to do so. The infrastructure, scientists and engineers of Pakistan Council for Scientific and Industrial Research have been made redundant as funds have not been released for research and development for the last 10 years. Doors for the entry of 4th industrial revolution can be opened and the country can be benefited from it only when the government become serious in expanding and modernizing the scientific and technological base of the country like the South Asian state and India. Hollow rhetoric and shallow philosophy will not steer the country out from the present state of stagnation.