The Dilemma Developing Countries
The policy consistency for 2-3 decades has been observed in recently emerging countries like China, South Korea, Singapore and others. The less developed countries also need to find a way out to ensure policy consistency for science, technology and innovation. There is a serious need of national consensus to foster the state of innovation and reap fruits of economic growth and public prosperity. The charter of innovation proposed for Pakistan may help others in the developing world.
The Charter of Innovation
The charter aims to bring together all political parties united for developing innovative Pakistan. The charter intends to present national unity for a single agenda of science and technology in Pakistan keeping differences aside. The charter will also bring consistency in policies related to promotion of science and technology and commitment by all parties. Under this charter, science and technology is treated as a top priority of Pakistan to put the country in the forefront of research, innovation and cutting edge technologies. The charter presents a national vision of Pakistan to be among the top fifty innovative countries of the world to be duly endorsed by political parties present in the parliament. The political parties need to drive an innovation culture in Pakistan and contribute to overall S&T development and support each Government of the day to do the maximum for science and technology. Together united we can turn our dream of “innovative Pakistan” into a reality.
The Objectives of the Charter of Innovation
To sensitize country leadership for the importance of science and technology.
To develop ownership of political parties for S&T policies.
To ensure consistency in policies, budget allocation, and leadership for S&T.
To bring national drive, sense of unity, and sense of priority for S&T.
Developed by Rahmat Ullah, Chief Coordinator, Institute of Research Promotion, General Secretary, SATHA, Manager ORIC, UMT, Lahore
Chief Coordinator, IRP
South Asia Triple Helix Association
Manager ORIC, UMT
*email address protected*
Innovation in Pakistan
Pakistan is the sixth largest country in the world and ideally to be ranked among the top ten countries of the world in GDP, exports, innovation, and per capita income. Pakistan ranks among the bottom 20-30 countries in various indices among 200 countries mostly participate in various global surveys. This is reflected by the Global Competitive Index ranking for Pakistan at 115th among 140 countries in 2018.
The innovation in the country can be measured through export growth in the competitive market. Pakistan export stands at 20 billion USD whereas it should have crossed 300 billion USD. This level of export growth has been achieved by many countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Turkey.
Pakistan’s survival is at serious risk if such economic targets are not achieved. These economic targets are not possible without providing an innovation ecosystem and investing heavily in R&D to make the industry competitiveness.
The Lost Path
Back in the 1960s Pakistan was competitive or at par with countries around. Pakistan set up more than 200 R&D organizations to support industry and enhance export back in 1960-1970. Pakistan exports were ahead of Turkey and Korea, and a little behind Malaysia, Singapore and India in 1960. Now, as per World Bank Data 2017, presented in below figure 01, Pakistan exports are many time behind these countries. Korea was behind Pakistan and now has merchandise exports around 573 billion USD as compared to 21 billion USD by Pakistan.
Pakistan and Dubai were not comparable three decades before, and are not comparable today. The lagged behind (Dubai) has left Pakistan behind and grew to great heights emerging as a global economic centre.
Why Pakistan Lost?
Many countries have similar problems like Pakistan, but continued to observe growth due to political stability. Unfortunately, Pakistan missed policy consistency. This inconsistency led to less investment in R&D.
The table 01 shows Pakistan ranked among the bottom 20 countries as Global Competitive Index is 115 out of 140 countries in the GCI report 2017-2018. Pakistan on average spent 0.27% of GDP in the last twenty years, where as rest of the growing countries doubled or tripled their spending. The average investment in India is 0.76%, and in 2017 it invested 0.83% of GDP in R&D. Korea average R&D spending for the last twenty years is 3.02%, whereas in 2017 it spent 4.23% of GDP. The same trend and R&D priority is observed by other countries like Turkey, Malaysia and Singapore. Therefore, these countries observed a high export growth rate ranging from 200-500 Billion USD. The advanced countries like Japan, Germany, USA and China are spending 2%-3% of GDP on R&D and leading the export front in the world. The Global Competitive Index of these countries is very high.
Pakistan is left behind in exports and other economic indicators because of only spending 0.27% on R&D backed by policy inconsistency and political instability.
Table 01 Export and R&D Investment
|Country Name||Export in
USD billion (2017)
|R&D % of GDP
20 years average
|R&D % of GDP
The Moments of National Consensus
Pakistan did a good job on a number of occasions by demonstrating political consensus and national will to achieve some goals. The constitution of Pakistan is a gift of political unity demonstrated by all parties and driven by the then Prime Minister Mr Z A Bhutto. Nuclear research was started in the late 50s in Pakistan when Pakistan set up six S&T organizations to do cutting edge research. Pakistan was ahead of many countries in S&T initiatives in that period. The nuclear technology for the defense was based on the last ten years’ research work and initiated again by Z A Bhutto. The project observed policy consistency by all the governments, political, and military leadership. This national unity made Pakistan the sixth nuclear power.
Pakistan suffered a lot due to escalating terrorism inside and at the borders. Many countries are still stuck in fighting with terrorism. Pakistan again achieved political unity, and all parties along with military and social leadership, decided to get rid of this illness. This unity backed military operations and Pakistan succeeded in combating the terrorism. Now Pakistan is a good example and role model for other countries to successfully fight against terrorism. Recently another act of national unity is observed by all political parties for the right of people in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATAs). The FATA merger has been successful in KP Province and now remaining measures are being taken.
These incidents clearly reflect the power of national unity and the ability of the Pakistani nation to achieve great milestones together and jointly.
The Charter of Innovation for Pakistan
The survival is only by national unity to promote science and technology culture that can lead to many fold export increase. The jump from 20 to 300 billion USD export is not possible without a national drive to achieve it. We propose that the charter of innovation for Pakistan is to be signed by all parties present in parliament. This will increase the respect for parliament and promote its role as a national savior in times of crisis. The political leadership must drive innovation in the country through leadership, legislation, policy making, good governance, total merit and creating respect for science and technology.
All political parties may be invited to show agreement for the following four broad areas:
- All political parties join hands for S&T development regardless of political difference.
- S&T development should be made a national priority and advocated by the national leadership.
- Political leadership needs to get involved in activities to promote science culture in society.
- Every MNA to be encouraged to visit schools of the constituency, spend time with students and take such measures to promote science culture in schools.
- The media industry to be encouraged to launch “one science hour” daily.
- The parliamentary committee for science and technology must be activated and strengthened.
- Parliament members to be briefed about the state of S&T in Pakistan and take measures.
- Training forum of the national assembly to be tasked to train members of the national assembly on science and technology policy.
- S&T related new reforms and bills to be supported on a priority basis by all parties.
- Quarterly review of the progress of S&T institutions to be presented in the parliament for inputs and debate.
- Intellectual property rights laws to be made and updated.
- Legal system to be developed and strengthened to protect rights of scientists and inventors.
- Science and technology needs to be treated as a national priority and policy consistency to be ensured by all Governments.
- National Commission on science and technology to be activated and strengthened.
- Government to be encouraged to provide hassle-free funding and not make cuts on S&T budgets.
- S&T institutions to be made free of any political involvements and to be dealt with totally on merit.
- Intellectual property rights to be strengthened and fully enforced.
- IPO office to be strengthened and redeveloped as dynamic office.
- S&T institutions to be governed by independent boards for higher efficiency and effectiveness.
- International S&T linkages to be spearhead by various committees of the parliament.
- All political parties should encourage members to have close linkages with universities and S&T institutions.
- The parliament committees to be encouraged to involve national scientists for policy research and detailed analysis to make good effective laws and policies.
- Political parties may involve university professors to give inputs for a political manifesto to better serve the common man.
- Government of Pakistan must spare a minimum 1%-3% of GDP to support ongoing R&D activities in the countries.
- Every constituency of each MNA must conduct science festivals of school kids in the area.
The world has observed policy consistency and national unity as instrumental for development in the case of China, Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia etc. These countries have registered this progress in the last 2-3 three decades. Europe was badly hit by World War II and rose again in a few decades. Pakistan got independence in 1947 just after two years of WWII. but could not catch up in the last seven decades.
- Will political parties keep fighting with each other and continue to drive instability and waste more time of this nation? Or
- Will political parties exercise some prototyping of developing consensus on important issues of S&T and ensure stability and long term commitment for it?
- Can political parties pilot charter of innovation for science and technology development and show agreement to drive it together?
We think we can build a national consensus on S&T led innovation growth and build an innovative Pakistan. The political parties, civil service, social sector, media, industry and other power houses of Pakistan will show consent to make Pakistan stand among top fifty innovative countries of the world.
Published by the Triple Helix Association – ISSN 2281-4515
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