Pakistan must fill skill gap to exploit CPEC: Report by ACCA and PCI

LAHORE: Pakistan’s manpower, whether professional, skilled, semi-skilled, or unskilled must either match or be better than China’s if the country wanted to ensure that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’s (CPEC) long-term benefits don’t start heading South, a report said on Tuesday.

“Investment in people, for example, learning Mandarin, understanding Chinese business culture and increased networking i.e., the people-to-people contact which is one of the pillars of CPEC, must be embedded in the long-term mission of the private and public sectors,” a report by ACCA Pakistan, and Pakistan-China Institute (PCI) said.

Commenting on the report titled ‘The Economic Benefits of the Modern Silk Road - CPEC’, Arif Masud Mirza, regional head of policy at ACCA, said for the last almost 3 years the business community and finance professionals have been talking about the economic benefits of the CPEC.

“We all know about the various projects that make up the CPEC, but has the business community started thinking about the impact of CPEC on their strategies? What would be the long term benefits? How can businesses prepare for new opportunities and challenges? Where do they need to invest or allocate resource to capitalise on the future? What are the risks and how to navigate around them? What are the possible scenarios north or south or the good the bad and the ugly? Clearly a lot of deep thinking still needs to be done,” Mirza said.

Sajjeed Aslam, head of ACCA Pakistan, said we could see and hear the chatter on the CPEC in professional networks very early on. “A lot was hearsay which in itself can be a risk for businesses. The numbers being talked about were historic by Pakistani standards $46 billion multiplying to $62 billion later,” Aslam said.

The report contains the result of a survey amongst 500 finance professionals and business stakeholders as well the outcomes from five SWOTs workshops in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Sindh and Islamabad. The SWOTs revealed a common trend such as knowledge gaps, opportunities included regional trade and commerce, new cities and job creation; strengths included leveraging on the country’s educational institutes, scaling up agriculture and tourism, lastly, the threats revolve around environmental, social and governance challenges.

Malik Mirza, the author of the report, who spent several months researching and interviewing diverse stakeholders across the country, said the SWOTs were a great way to get people to think strategically and ensure that they don’t just look at the blue sky only. ACCA 100 drivers for change provided a good pivot point for professionals to look at what skills will be needed to prepare for the future and these are explored in the report.

Almost 70 percent agreed and strongly agreed that new skills will be needed in the future and 74.4 percent said they agreed and strongly agreed that there was a marked difference in business styles between the Chinese and Pakistani.

Surprisingly over 80 percent agreed or strongly agreed that investing in Chinese language was desirable but on the ground they are not witnessing this investment.