Pakistan has seen a small but significant improvement in the global competitiveness scale, as measured by the World Economic Forum Report (WEFR), climbing from 115th to 122nd place. The progress is due mainly to the promising China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The infrastructure pillar of the report — the so-called pivot of the competitiveness scale — catapulted the country to the 110th spot even as its CPEC partner lost some visible momentum. At this point we must not be carried away by the hype surrounding the project because questions still remain about our capacity to undertake the tougher tasks that lie ahead. The first among these is to ensure the country completes the projects under CPEC, especially those related to infrastructure development, on time. Delays in the expansion of rail lines and the creation of special economic zones have already exposed the lack of coordination between the federal and provincial governments. Bureaucratic red tape seems to have also undermined our planning efforts for CPEC-related projects. If we are to be competitive in today’s world, there is absolutely no room for complacency or excuses. Feasibility studies should be carried out by a provincial government weeks before a scheduled meeting with their Chinese counterparts and not weeks or months after that, as observed by a federal government minister. There must be an overall improvement in our work ethic as well. Greater professionalism and commitment will help of course. The goal of development cannot be reached unless there is better governance and strict adherence to the rule of law. These are the same conditions which allow investment to flow into the country. As academics have pointed out, CPEC and other mega projects can go forward only if we are committed to education and the pursuit of scientific knowledge. Our success or failure depends upon it.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 30th, 2017.
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