Today, Pakistan is witnessing historical economic activity and investment under the famous China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Canvas of the developmental projects is really far-reaching and encompasses local, national and regional markets. Actually, CPEC is more like a regional connectivity framework. It will not only benefit China and Pakistan, but hopefully befitting for regional development. This billion dollar investment will definitely be fruitful for Iran, Afghanistan, and Central Asian Republic(s) leading up to the Eastern Europe and the Russia. That is why Pakistan is again at the crossroads of the expansion of its diplomatic ties with the neighbouring countries as well as with the big powers. Once again Pakistan has an opportunity to take benefit from its strategic location which we have had lost on a number of occasions in the past.

Although the main focus of the CPEC is transport infrastructure but this Pak-China joint venture has also brought various projects related to energy, industry, agriculture, trade and tourism. Consequently, concerned indicators of development including industrial growth, rail-road networks and employment opportunities are showing an upward trajectory. Keeping the other factors, like political stability and security situation constant, we can hope for the best to come, as far as socio-economic development is concerned. If we dug deep the roots of socio-economic development, we will agree to the fact that this kind of development should have a positive and sustainable impact on the lives of general masses. In other words we can argue that quality of life and its ease should be transcend to the public at large in result of said socio-economic development.

However, complete socio-economic development is only possible if we are be able to understand or atleast realise the flip side of the development as our lives have been taken over completely by the science and technology. We cannot expect spending our life-time without technology. There is no exaggeration in saying that science and technology is not less than any other blessing of life that we enjoy. From the invention of the wheel to the latest chip-based technologies including smart-phones, laptops and micro-chips, inventions have transformed human life style. Energy conversion from solar to electric and innovations related to food technology and curing diseases, all become possible because of research in the field of science and technology. However, this flip side of the development in Pakistan is not as shiny as the other side is. Pakistan is spending only 0.26% of its GDP on the development budget of science and technology, whereas, Ethiopia, Uganda and Tunisia are spending more than that of Pakistan with respect to their GDP(s).

Let me scratch the flip side bit more, to make my argument clearer and understandable. Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metro Bus Project was accomplished in 44 billion rupees, costing 2 billion rupees per kilo-meter for a total of 22 km. In comparison, the annual development budget for entire science and technology in Pakistan is less than 2 billion, more precisely is 1.7 billion rupees according to the Federal Budget 2016-17. Here lies the reason why developing nations are so under-developed in areas of research and innovation. It also confirms that our hue and cry regarding a lack of resources is less realistic. If policy makers can come-up with such massive infrastructural projects and get them implemented in months, it is an indication that if priority is given, any research or innovation based project can also be materialised regardless of its financial immensity. All we need is to prioritise our options and follow a balanced approach to carry forward both, infrastructural and technological development side by side.

The UN Secretary General’s Scientific Advisory Board which envisioned the idea of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) remarked that science, technology and innovation can be a game changer for development. The pace of development is so fast that we will become redundant in this world if we fail to keep up. We are living in the age of informatics where the global economy has now moved towards a knowledge based economy. The knowledge economy generally depends upon education and knowledge termed as human capital. We have to invest greatly in the intellectual base of the country along with physical development that is already getting a greater chunk of investment. Pakistan has match-less human resources which are not only contributing within the country but also making progress abroad. We actually need a vision and political will that can set our priorities to utilise available financial resources in accordance to our needs. Without compromising the current infrastructural development initiatives, we need to invest in research and development that will lead us to innovations and ultimately towards technological advancement with a strong, self-sufficient and sustainable economy.