KARACHI: If one analyses successful economies and researches their reason for success, one will find that a vibrant private sector is a fundamental pillar. In addition, it will also show the omnipresence of grassroots entrepreneurship as the key engine which nourished this growth and provided the economy with long-term sustainability.
The absence of grassroots entrepreneurship is the very reason why sustainable economic growth has eluded Pakistan for so long. We continue to be bogged down in addressing problems related to the survival of existing businesses and that is why we never realise economic growth as achieved by many including the Asian Tiger countries, India and China over the last two to three decades.
In the true economic model it is not the government’s responsibility to provide jobs; their most important job is to act as facilitators and in helping and creating an environment which is favourable for entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs in turn create jobs and give back to the government the much needed tax revenue for improving infrastructure and creating an attractive investment environment.
Where have we gone wrong? Three issues stand out, which are short-term thinking and planning, lack of focus on teaching ‘Entrepreneurship’ in our educational institutions and third, the lack of government incentives for promising new entrepreneurs. Let us elaborate a bit on these.
Short-term thinking and planning
Unfortunately today, discussion and debates are centred on challenges facing existing businesses and their sustainability. No time is spent in identifying opportunities and in finding ways to encourage grassroots investment as an engine for job creation and sustainable GDP growth. A proper vision and detailed planning needs to be carried out and institutionalised.
Lack of Entrepreneurship Focused Education
We need to develop a culture of entrepreneurial thinking and integrate it into our educational system. Entrepreneurship courses need to be designed and introduced at all levels and made mandatory at graduate level. Let’s take ‘Engineering’ curriculum as a case in point. Entire focus in these programs is on acquiring technical knowledge but no entrepreneurial skills.
Lack of government incentives
Taxing a business that barely exists does not add much to the government exchequer. Many businesses are booming in other nations dominated by an educated middle class but they have not taken root in Pakistan. One case in point is the still infant Information Technology (IT) industry especially as it relates to back-office outsourcing services of major corporations and software/application design and support.
Remember that every new business will not only benefit the owner, but the city, region and country as a whole. We must encourage entrepreneurship and work towards creating specialised government agencies, business incubators, science parks and lay down a strong foundation for young entrepreneur education and simple access to business capital.
The writer works in the corporate sector and is active on various business forums and trade bodies.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 2nd, 2012.
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