Sindh is a province that is characterized by soaring rural-urban economic divide. Urban Sindh is more developed economically than its rural counterpart. It has strong industrial base, better infrastructure, thriving service sector and advanced health and education facilities. On the contrary, rural Sindh seems to be in the throes of poverty, unemployment and backwardness where people find it difficult to have quality education, healthcare, infrastructure and the economy producing jobs for educated youth. Graduates being produced by the universities are running from pillar to the post for jobs. This phenomenon has given rise to crimes – kidnapping and other unlawful activities, pushing Sindh further into the state of economic backwardness
The poverty and underdevelopment are invariably attributed to weak rural industry. According to SDPC report 2012-13, the contribution of rural industry in Sindh is at 23pc against the contribution of Pukhtunkhwa at 74, Balochistan at 50pc and Punjab at 50pc. It speaks volumes about the poor health of rural industry, which is attributed to a number of reasons, ranging from lack of skilled labor, lack of investment, lack of technology and weak entrepreneur class. And whatever entrepreneur class Sindh had left for India in the wake of partition in 1947. It created vacuum expected to be filled by the entrepreneur class that migrated from India, especially from Gujarat but it did not happen and the business houses that migrated from India settled in urban areas with no interaction and no interest to help develop rural economy by investing in it. General Ayub who ruled Pakistan for almost one decade adopted industrial and agricultural policies but those policies did not benefit rural Sindh. Zia damaged Sindh economy the most and its embryonic entrepreneur class that emerged as a result of ZAB’s economic policies designed to remove the economic imbalances between rural and urban Sindh. It was during Zia’s time that the kidnapping for ransom of Sindhi entrepreneurs started as a part of his vengeance against rural Sindh that was the hub of MRD movement in 1983 against his dictatorial rule. Musharraf too did little for the development of rural economy of Sindh as he focused on urban Sindh and provided massive funds for the development of Karachi as he was more interested to win over the support of the urban population. Politicians too share the blame for keeping Sindh underdeveloped as they work like Mancur Olson’s ‘Roving Bandits’ plundering rural development funds and spending somewhere else. This has deprived rural Sindh of its vital development resources and has created new level of deprivation and desolation.
This deprivation and desolation has very well been highlighted by UNDP report 2012 on Sindh. The report says that rural Sindh has 30 percent poverty whereas Karachi has 13 percent. The report also highlights the dismal plight of health, education and gender inequalities. The visible economic imbalances between rural and urban economic life won’t disappear automatically, it requires active government interventions in favor of rural poor to be provided with equal opportunity; access to quality education, health, land and jobs so that rural Sindh can be brought at par with urban Sindh. The development of rural Sindh needs massive effort on the part of Sindh government to chalk out the development plan on the basis of empirical analysis to develop effective policy and planning and set targets to bridge rural-urban economic divide. In this regard, following steps are suggested.
First, development of the rural areas is the first and foremost duty of the govt and should be given top priority by using all the available resource. It has to invest in infrastructure, health, education, skill development, agriculture and should take efforts to promote agro industry and establish linkages between urban and rural economies as both are dependent on each other.
Second, if government cannot invest due to financial problems and lack of governance capacity, it has to invite private sector to invest and establish industries such as textile, cement, livestock, poultry, dairy, and fisheries. But keeping in view the law and order situation, it is unlikely that private investors will invest. In this scenario, the government of Sindh has to take measures to improve the law and order situation and give assurance to investors that Sindh is a safe place for investors. In this regard, Sindh Board of Investment should hold a conference, involving local administration, MNAs and MPAs, to discuss the issues faced by investors.
The third option is that the government should promote local entrepreneurship by offering microcredit to potential local entrepreneurs. The era of managerial economy is over and now we are living in the era of entrepreneurial economy. It is more productive and produces more jobs. There are many business schools and colleges producing hundreds of MBA graduates who the government can motivate to start their own businesses. It needs sustained campaign and continuous effort. Recently SZABIST students conducted study on the women entrepreneurs in Larkana district. The study found that women are quite ambitious to enter into the market activity provided that the government provides them with facilities such as training, credit and technology.
Pakistan People’s Party has been ruling Sindh since the last six years. Sindh happens to be its strong hold and it has been continuously elected to power but PPP need to pay enough attention to the development of rural Sindh in order to bring it at par with their urban counterparts so that rural folks can realize the aspirations of a better economic life for better and brighter future.
The writer is teaching at SZABIST, Karachi Campus.