ISLAMABAD: Development Communications Network (Devcom-Pakistan) organized a webinar titled ‘Industrial Outlook in the New Normal – Risks and Challenges for Pakistan’ on Wednesday. Speakers attending the online seminar debated on Pakistan’s needs to develop a comprehensive framework for the new industrial look by incorporating new technologies.
Speakers at the event included United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) National Programme Coordinator Masroor Ahmed Khan, faculty head of human resource and business at Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) Dr Nadeem Ahmed Khan, the focal person of the Pakistan Ship-breakers Association from Gaddani Jawed Ahmed, Pakistan Workers Federation Assistant Secretary General Shaukat Ali Anjum, and a small scale industrialist from Attock Anwarul Haq.
They said that the country’s industry will have to reemerge with new parameters and practices based on the knowledge economy. ‘Poverty struck and resource deficient Pakistan needs to develop more IT-driven startups to engage young people for productivity’, and that preemptive measures will be crucial to preventing the spread of the coronavirus in clusters.
It was also highlighted during the webinar that United Nations’ organisations are engaged with the government and the Planning Commission of Pakistan to develop and finalise standard operating procedures for different types of industries, including small and medium enterprises (SME).
Discussing the impact of the coronavirus on industry, UNIDO coordinator said that unemployment and poverty would rise in the first phase and the national GDP and exports would suffer severely. He said that there would be opportunities for technical experts and tech savvy people in the food processing and packaging, consumer goods, the provision of logistics services, e-commerce, health technology, the promotion of the digital world and tourism industries.
He said, “As we navigate the current threats to human wellness, to economies and to the planet, the timely adoption of sustainable consumption and production (SCP) patterns is key to building back stronger and more resilient societies”. He also said that in the wake of Covid-19, choosing more efficient production methods and implementing better use of natural resources is one of the most effective ways to reduce our impact on the environment while simultaneously advancing human wellbeing.
Dr Nadeem said that human reliance on machines and robots will be enhanced in the ‘new normal’. Since the least amount of human interference would be preferred, it would result in fewer jobs. Systems will be automated and will be made functional with less human interference. “The world is already of the view that robotic medicine may be the weapon the world needs to combat the coronavirus. Critical thinking, complex problem solving, creativity, interdisciplinary knowledge and automation systems design will be the requisite skills in the job market”. He added that the ‘work from anywhere’ concept will prevail, which will work by forming virtual teams to carry tasks using virtual platforms.
Devcom-Pakistan Director Munir Ahmed said that Pakistan needs to jump into revamping industries at different tiers to mitigate the adverse impact of the coronavirus. “So far, we see no vigorous plans on the front. Slow pace would hamper economic activities and growth at all tiers. We need to learn from the Chinese cottage industry model to uplift the poor from the poverty line. It would also improve the macroeconomic indicators too,” he said.
Anwarul Haq said that the small industrial units are passing through hardships due to the pandemic, adding that the government should come up with a support mechanism for such small units that cannot approach soft loans.
Jawed Ahmed from Ship-breakers Association said that the ship-breaking industry is already implementing SOPs in the sector according to instructions laid down in International Organisation for Standardisation certifications. Whatever new SOPs come from the provincial and federal governments will be implemented accordingly.
Shaukat Ali Anjum said that his organisation is more interested in the implementation of SOPs to ensure the health and safety of workers, such as how the owners of industries will implement SOPs and who will monitor them.