By Yasir Ameen, WEEKLY PULSE MAGAZINE, September 30, 2013
Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minster of Pakistan has announced different loan schemes for youth along with its much popular laptop schemes for the students of various universities allocating Rs 4 billion after it was successfully helped retaining his vote bank in different parts of the country.
The laptop scheme seems to be continued in the future at least in the rule of PML(N) federal government which was seeking to cash it in the electoral process through votes of the youth which largely comprise of almost 60 percent of the population. Though if the percentage of students is calculated as per conservative estimate, the university-going and college-going students could safely constitute 20 percent of the population and the deserving students will be limited but huge in numbers so prospects for flourishing business by the laptop or notebook makers are immense likely for five year period.
The allocated Rs 4 billion of PM’s Laptop Scheme could be allocated to set up a hi-tech and advanced IT university at federal level with cutting-edge resources, highly qualified faculty, digital library, IT labs, WiFi system video-conferencing facilities and etc,. Even, scholarships could be given to deserving students and people could study at the campus while paying lowest fee.
If a university purely dedicated on different fields of IT is planned, there could be hundreds students could be educated with advanced skilled and talented professional could be provided to local industries in Pakistan and human capital could be utilized for improved and enhanced production of our industries. Secondly if the professionals of this university get the opportunity to work in foreign countries, they in return, pave the way towards remittances to the country.
Once a university is established, students could be provided educated for decades and centuries but it all depends on vision of political leadership. A graduate of highly advanced IT University can easily buy a laptop, once he or she enters into professional life because of his or her skills and wealth of knowledge.
In addition to university, thousands of schools at secondary and elementary level could be equipped with IT labs where students will be able provided computer literacy.
Take the example of Punjab government, which is also being ruled by PML (N), the provincial government has allocated nearly Rs 2 billion for setting up IT labs in 5,000 higher secondary and elementary schools of the province.
The provincial government plan to set up IT labs will give opportunities to thousands of students living in small cities and villages to learn how to operate computer for the purpose of their daily lives. The students will not only be equipped with IT skills but this literacy(if it is provided) will increase the demand of IT applications and equipment in the country in the future, resulting the productivity of different businesses will be increasing with the passage of time in various fields.
The laptops scheme will not benefit students and PML(N) alike but Original Equipment Manufacturers (OMEs) of laptops will be ultimate beneficiary of this scheme for their thriving business in Pakistan and enjoy a commercial honeymoon with the federal at least for the next financial year.
There are various laptop brands available in the market including Acer, Sony, Intel and Dell. All these companies including processor maker, Intel, have once again rejoiced over the announcement of the government and appreciated this move because the laptop scheme is not just about sales of the machines but it is promotion of high technology computer device at government level.
However none of the company has any plan to set up their manufacturing plants in Pakistan citing the reason that the government should improve the infrastructure in the country first and then offer a separate policy for them to encourage their investment plans in Pakistan.
But what is a need to set up a manufacturing unit of laptop and desktop computers in Pakistan? The macro-economic situation of the country is also in crisis as it is again seeking support of International Monetary Fund (IMF) to settle down their balance of payment situation. It means the trade deficit of Pakistan is in deteriorating situation due to its limited exports and rising imports of various products.
All new and used laptops and desktop computers are imported from various countries and a big part of foreign exchange reserves are spent over the purchase of different featured computers.
Hence, if the laptop scheme is allocated Rs 4 billion for financial year 2013-14, it means more than $ 400 million will be sent to various countries from country’s account and $ 1.6 billion’s outflow will be seen in the period of next five years provided that the government continues its PM on annual basis.
Can a manufacturing plant of desktop computers and laptops not be set up against the investment of USD $ 1.5 billion in two years? Of course, even a small manufacturing unit could be established not only to cater Pakistan’s market but to enhance its business in neighboring countries like in Iran, Afghanistan, Central and South Asian countries as well.