Making the case for Human Resource Development through Infrastructure Development and Economic Growth – the case of CPEC
Economic Growth can only be fueled by human resources enabled by opportunities for learning, technical skills, communication and transactional technologies. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) comprising almost 3000 (2,700)- kilometer highway stretching from Kashgar to Gwadar is a gigantic milestone for Pakistan . The project is an impressive collaboration for China and Pakistan but especially for the latter where it will be a game changer for human development and economic growth. Extending from the Karakoram Highway that links China’s Province of Xinjiang with Pakistan’s north region, the infrastructure project will be building economic zones along the corridor. CPEC will stretch across all 5 provinces bringing a conservative investment of USD 45 billion over the next 15 years. It will also establish energy and transport infrastructure laying the foundation for an unimaginable supply chain, numerous industry and services clusters and small cities. But none of this can be sustained without giving adequate attention to education, technical vocational and livelihoods skills and a high degree of environmental stewardship and civic responsibility. The overlapping of industry clusters with social capital clusters is a unique opportunity that Pakistan cannot afford to miss and it will not too! The synergies are obvious as are the dividends. of CPEC and more will emerge as the research on various dimensions deepens. The purpose of this note is to highlight that the government of Pakistan (Federal and Provincial) must exponentially focus on all districts along the corridor in general and those which have poor indicators in particular. The current 19 districts of the CPEC from Gilgit Baltistan to Sindh is an impressive list indeed. Hunza-Nagar- Diamer (3 districts Gilgit Baltistan); Kohistan, Battagram, Mansehra, Abbotabad and Haripur – (5 districts Khyber Pakhtoonistan) ; Attock, Mianwali, Sargodha, Layyah, D.G.Khan and Rajanpur (6 districts Punjab); Dera Bugti, Khuzdar, Pungur, Gwadar (4 districts Balochistan) and Jacobabad(1 district Sindh). Of these 19 districts, almost 11 have enrolments less than 80% and learning levels below 50% of grade 5 children tested for grade 2 level competencies with major gender gaps! These girls and boys will be the human capital for CPEC, clearly unable to match with the aspirations of the “economic corridor”. It is imperative to upgrade the human resources, facilities and opportunities for their development through a dynamic 5 year CPEC district education plan (DEP) for each of the 19 districts spanning programs for age groups from 2 years to 40 years of age in hard and soft skills, an age group comprising 75% of our population. These districts are our invaluable national asset, but remain constrained by major challenges of health, nutrition, poverty, decent jobs, environment and climate change. These multiple fault lines can be addressed comprehensively, attracting public and other development partners. Such an approach presents an opportunity Pakistan, combining cross-sectoral pooling of resources for infrastructure, services, health, education and skills (hard and soft).