On April 20th, 2018 UNIDO Day 2018: Belt and Road Cross-Border Cooperation Forum was held in Shanghai, China. I was privileged to be invited by President Yan Xiaohong (Jiangsu University, China) and Dr Cui Yong (Deputy Secretary General, One Belt One Road College, Jiangsu University, China) in this event to represent the case of China- Pakistan future collaboration. Upon an exclusive discussion with H.E.LI Yong, Director-General (DG) UNIDO I was reassured that Pakistan shares a long history of collaborative projects with UNIDO but most of the projects didn’t reap the fruitful outcomes which is the major reason for resistance in future collaboration. Moreover, the DG also narrates that two years back when he tried to figure out why Pakistan is lagging behind in comparison to other UNIDO partner countries the answer received by our Ex-Prime Minister was quite disturbing because as usual our government put the entire burden of guilt to previous establishments. The DG was of the opinion that Pakistan can itself become self-sufficient if it focuses on three aspects. Firstly, it needs to own things and stop blaming what others had done in past. Secondly, energy is important driver for economic development therefore it is significant for Pakistan to pay special attention in this area. Thirdly, Pakistan needs to channelise export of best fruits and vegetables produced in Pakistan which he believes are a stepping stone for Pakistan to become self-sufficient and getting out of poverty trap.
After the exclusive discussion there was formal opening of UNIDO 2018. UNIDO has been committed to achieve inclusive globalisation and environmental sustainability in industry development, realise the potential of industrial contribution, reach the prosperity of mankind through cooperation, and build a community for common destiny for mankind. In China, UNIDO will host UNIDO day annually during China (Shanghai), International Technology Fair. It will primarily focus on themes of trade technology and global sustainable development; the activities include high-level international forums, dialogues and visits, with the objective of catalysing global industry innovation, the economic transformation and industrial upgrading.
This year, the UNIDO Day has taken the opportunity of “Belt & Road” initiative and hold three thematic events: Belt and Road Cross-Border Cooperation Forum, “Bridge for Cities” Roadshow and the UNIDO Special Exhibition Stand. The events were aimed to explore the cross-border cooperation and investment opportunities with focus on the Smart City, Industry 4.0, and Circular Economy for the common prosperity of mankind. Moreover, it also emphasised on regional economic and trade exchange to promote “Belt and Road” cross-border cooperation through global technology complementation to achieve industry upgrading and environmental sustainable development. The main agenda highlighted is setting and harmonising fiscal, monetary and industrial policies and in supporting sound economic growth in emerging and developing economies.
It was mentioned that recently, UNIDO have signed a joint Declaration on a Programme for Country Partnership (PCP) for 2018-2023 with Cambodia. This makes Cambodia the first country in Asia to pilot the PCP initiative. This initiative will target three key areas which includes the development of sustainable tourism, the development of competitive agro-industry and creative industry value chains and industrial diversification in specific through the development of Special Economic Zones (SEZs). Now, in reality Pakistan is also in dire need of such initiatives as discussed above it covers all those areas which requires special attention. Undoubtedly, if a proper channel is adopted by our government and its concerned Ministries and already executed projects like China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Pakistan can become a dreamland. Moreover, the PCP will be supported by number of interventions on cross-cutting issues which includes interventions in the following areas: industrial policy and business environment; skills development; quality infrastructure, innovation and technology transfer; energy access and efficiency; resource efficiency and cleaner production and environmental management.
If, Cambodia can be fortunate enough to become part of this initiative then why not Pakistan. Pakistan needs to target it then it could serve as a new platform for synchronizing development efforts and in specific for optimal resource mobilisation and effective Pakistan’s Industrial Development policy.
Likewise, DG UNIDO also mentioned about joining forces with Thailand to develop the Eastern Economic Corridor by lending assistance in upgrading and improving industries in the area. They have the agenda to promote sustainable industry in countries undergoing an economic transition. The goal of the strategy is to evolve the Thai economy from reliance on assembly line manufacturing for multinationals to one driven by home-grown innovation, creativity, research and development, high technologies and green technologies.
Now, once again it is a great idea to be replicated in Pakistan. We need to showcase our case at right platform and in proper way. I am of opinion great emphasis should be placed toward Pakistan financial sector reforms which prompt major financial institutions to establish corporate governance to deal with toxic assets, strengthen risk management and importance to fiscal and financial measures in favor of agricultural development and SMEs as it acts as the cornerstones for creating economic opportunities, reducing poverty and promoting gender equality.
Overall conclusion, of the UNIDO Day 2018 is to have partnerships that are essential for bringing industry 4.0 technologies to cities to transform them into smart cities. There are countless opportunities available to make cities smarter through industry 4.0 technologies, but the ultimate goal should always be to improve the quality of life for people. There is the potential for developing countries to leapfrog to higher levels of development through the use of technology. Lastly, smart cities will be pivotal in achieving the 2030 agenda which focus on inclusive sustainable industrial development through the nexus of industry, infrastructure and innovation in cities.