ISLAMABAD: The first workshop on the theme: “Emerging Issues, Challenges and Opportunities in Rural Economy of Pakistan” was organised by the Centre For Rural Economy (CRE), Ministry of Planning, Development, and Reform here on Tuesday. The speakers/participants on the occasion discussed issues specific to the rural economy and recommended the required steps to take for a more prosperous economy.
Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Sartaj Aziz addressed the opening session of the workshop. He said a lot is needed to be done in the realm of rural transformation.
Based on Chinese experiences, well known Chinese expert Professor Jikun Huang recently articulated these stages in rural transformation. Rising food production through efficient irrigation and innovation technology, agricultural diversification to higher value crops and livestock, through improved marketing and cold chains, expanding non-farm employment through agriculture support services and small and medium enterprises in rural areas, increasing specialisation in certain brand products through technology and improved land rental and marketing policies, further increase in off-farm jobs through land consolidation and mechanisation, integrated urban-rural development by creating smart cities in rural areas. Sartaj Aziz stressed on adoption of fast track of rural transformation.
Speakers at the workshop included, UN-FAO Policy Consultant, Genevieve, CEO National Rural Support Program (NRSP) Rashid Bajwa, and CEO Pakistan Micro Finance Investment Company (PMIC) Yasir Ashfaq, shared their views with the audience from different government and private sector organisations.
Thereafter, Minister for Finance Rana Afzal in his address said it was time that the rural / agriculture economy attains the level of growth it deserves. He said Pakistan has great potential to increase its exports of halal food and agri-products. He pointed out that CPEC projects have also opened a new window of opportunity for the growth and development of the agriculture sector as the country could export a large number of food products and earn much needed foreign exchange.
The minister said that it is high time that the provincial governments ponder over the possibility of having their own Agriculture Development Banks. The federal government, he said, over the last four years, has disbursed significant amounts of agricultural credit to farmers as it extends due importance to the development of the agriculture sector. The government, he said, is further trying to enhance financial and technical assistance to the farmers’ community.
The minister said that there is also a need to impart training to women to contribute towards strengthening the economy. The present PML-N government has indeed provided opportunities to women to come forward and play their due role in the process of development. He talked about the importance of forestry in addressing environmental issues and also highlighted the economic opportunities it carries for farmers.
The minister said he was pleased to avail the opportunity to participate in a thought provoking discussion on such a significant subject. Other speakers who highlighted problems specific to the rural economy included Dr Aslam from PARD, Shah Nasir Khisro from IRSP, Irshad Abbasi from AKF and Muzaffar-Uddin from AKRSP. Member Food Security and Climate Change Dr Muhammad Azeem, Chief Executive Officer of Centre for Rural Economy (CRE) Dr Aamer Irshad were also present on the occasion.