ISLAMABAD: This is with reference to Pervez Hoodbhoy’s article of April 30 titled “Free laptops is not the answer. What is?”. He has argued that the laptops on offer by the Punjab government are expensive compared with those being sold in India by Tata. Given the trade restrictions that are in place, Pakistan cannot be expected to import the Tata computers.
Dr Hoodbhoy also termed the laptop scheme a public policy folly and also said that it was a case of inadequate intervention. Equipping students with the capability of computing is not a bad thing. It would be unfair to term such interventions a waste of public resources. Unlike many other public sector computer equipment investments which the writer has referred to, this one transfers a public good to private hands. Economic theory argues that private capital is more efficiently used than public capital. Therefore, to assume that this intervention will end in failure is an exaggeration.
Dr Hoodbhoy’s last argument, about a lack of education and social reform, does warrant serious thought. But here, too, the relevant question that comes to mind is that just because we cannot fix the larger problems, does that mean we stop fixing the smaller problems as well. A good strategy is to try and fix all issues, regardless of their magnitude, while keeping the larger picture in mind. The Punjab government is using this strategy. Through this scheme, it can be argued that the Punjab government is trying to shoulder investment in education, instead of doling out money through cash transfer cards.
Zubair Faisal Abbasi
Published in The Express Tribune, May 8th, 2012.
More in LettersTale of the troubled pedestrian