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- Sunday, August 26, 2012 - From Print Edition

Capital suggestion

Pakistan is not an agriculture country. There are 112 countries that have more arable land per capita than does Pakistan. They are: Australia, Kazakhstan, Canada, Niger, Russia, Argentina, Ukraine, Guyana, the United States, Lithuania, Belarus, Paraguay, Central African Republic, Sudan, Mongolia, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan, Zambia, Hungary, Estonia, Serbia, Togo, Romania, Finland, Uruguay, Denmark, Namibia, Bulgaria, Chad, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Mali, Bolivia, Benin, Turkey, Samoa, Brazil, Libya, South Africa, Poland, Spain, France, Sweden, Czech Republic, Ireland, Morocco, Tunisia, Macedonia, Afghanistan, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Cambodia, Slovakia, Bosnia, Syria, Belize, Zimbabwe, Croatia, Kyrgyzstan, Bhutan, Mexico, Gabon, Fiji, Algeria, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Mozambique, Nigeria, Thailand, Senegal, Azerbaijan, Angola, Gambia, Botswana, Burma, Palau, Guinea-Bissau, Malawi, Ghana, Uganda, Cote d’Ivoire, Norway, Albania, Uzbekistan, Lesotho, Georgia, Laos, Panama, Mauritania, Austria, Madagascar, Armenia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Swaziland, Honduras, Saint Kitts, Tonga, India, Tajikistan, Portugal, Germany, Kenya, Burundi, East Timor, Comoros, Eritrea and Rwanda.

Yes, even Afghanistan has more arable land per capita than does Pakistan. So do Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia. To be certain, nearly 60 percent of all countries in the world have more arable land per capita than does Pakistan. Is Afghanistan an agriculture country? Is Saudi Arabia an agriculture country?

Pakistan is not an agriculture country. It is true that 42 percent of Pakistan’s labour force is employed in the agriculture sector but the agriculture sector only produces 21 percent of the GDP behind both the industrial sector, 25 percent, and the services sector that now produces 54 percent of our GDP.

In the 70s, the agriculture sector was indeed the largest sector of our economy but that was forty years ago. Back then agriculture used to contribute up to 40 percent to our GDP. Since then agriculture has shrunk by half, while the services sector is now more than half of our GDP.

Here’s some simple math: We are adding more than 2 million to our labour force every year. The agriculture sector is shrinking while the services sector is growing. Question: Which sector has the potential of employing the additional 2 million?

Of the total 796,095 square km we call Pakistan, no more than 30 percent is arable and that converts to 0.3 acre of arable land per Pakistani. It is true that our yield per acre can be increased but that increase is subject to technological – and water – constraints. The truth is that God has only given us 337 acres of arable land per 1,000 Pakistanis – which is one of the lowest in the world – and if we want to prosper as a nation we would have to look at sectors other than agriculture – there is just no other option.

Our GDP will not grow for as long as we insist that we are an agriculture country. There cannot be prosperity for as long as we continue fighting God. Our unemployment is already out of control because our rulers are bent upon maintaining that we are an agriculture country – which we are not.

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad. Email: [email protected]