Hammad Azhar

ISLAMABAD: Economic Affairs Minister Hammad Azhar said on Friday the government was committed to investing in the country’s huge demographic dividends and turn its immense potential into a vibrant economy.

“This will also enhance opportunities in the job market, generate revenues and put the country on the path to development and prosperity,” he said while delivering the keynote address at the concluding session of the two-day “Thought Leaders Summit 2020″.

Organised by the British Council of Pakistan, the event was attended by a large number of experts in the fields of research, higher education, digital, creative and cultural economies.

The minister spoke on a variety of subjects ranging from creative economy to higher education, digital economy, equality, inclusivity and enabling environment and reiterated the government’s resolve to turn all those challenges into opportunities.

Sharing the vision of job creation for youth, Azhar said Pakistan could garner huge benefit from its demographic dividends. “Other countries like Indonesia, Japan, China and India have taken advantage of their demographic potential, but unfortunately Pakistan has not utlised it despite the fact it has worlds’ richest potential in that particular field.”

“We are committed to generating opportunities in the job market in line with the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan and the government, by branding Pakistan’s potential of demographic richness.”

Speaking on the subject of digital economy, Azhar admitted that in this field too, Pakistan had not performed well in the past. “Digital starts-ups usually begin with the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs),” he said adding there was a time when this particular sector’s share used to be 16pc but in recent years it had steadily declined to 8pc.”

He said, “The State of Bank of Pakistan (SBP) in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance has taken bold initiatives and in the next three to four years, it will be back at 16pc.”

About creative economy, the minister said Pakistan lagged in that sector too and the country needed to brand its culture and heritage as small countries with limited sources were generating huge revenue by investing in creative economy.

Lauding the work done by the British Council’s Research Evaluation and Monitoring Unit (REMU), Azhar said there was a need to enhance higher education budget particularly the development budget. Although the development part of higher education was registering a considerable raise, it needed to be increased and the government was well aware of it, he added.

About equality and inclusivity in education, the minister said the government would ensure uniform curriculum at school level by the mid of next year. “Unless we give our youth a level playing field, we can’t expect to utilize their potential in maximum way”, he added.

The British Council, he said, had done a great job by providing a platform for discussing fundamental issues of inclusive development, challenges in higher education, dissemination of knowledge and sharing data.

In his vote of thanks, Country Director of the British Council in Pakistan, Amir Ramzan said the summit was aimed at bringing together stakeholders to initiate dialogue for improving socio-economic status of Pakistanis across the board, especially young people.

“We are delighted to host thought leaders from across Pakistan to discuss the importance of research in social, cultural and economic growth,” he said.

This initiative “Thought Leaders’ Summit 2020” would help build connections, understanding and trust among different sectors, Ramzan said, adding the British Council worked with several stakeholders in Pakistan and the UK to produce quality research, for addressing some key challenges to in the form of policy.

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