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Govt to fast-track rural transformation: Sartaj Aziz

By Our Correspondent
March 21, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Sartaj Aziz, deputy chairman planning commission, on Tuesday said efficient irrigation, innovative technology, agriculture diversification, and integration with urban centers were prerequisites for boosting rural economy.

“A lot is needed to be done in the realm of rural transformation,” Aziz said addressing a workshop titled “Emerging Issues, challenges and Opportunities in Rural Economy of Pakistan”, organised by Centre for Rural Economy (CRE), Ministry of Planning, Development, and Reform.

The deputy chairman also stressed on fast-tracking the rural transformation. Rana Afzal, minister for finance, said it was time that the rural/agriculture economy attained the level of growth it deserves.

“Pakistan has great potential to increase its exports of halal food and agri-products,” Afzal said.

The minister pointed out the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects have also opened a new window of opportunity for the growth and development of agricultural sector as the country could export large quantities of food products, earning precious foreign exchange.

Afzal said that it was high time that the provincial governments pondered over the possibility of having their own agriculture development banks. “The federal government, over the last four years, has disbursed significant amounts of agricultural credit to farmers as it extends due importance to development of agriculture sector,” the minister said.

Recording a 42 percent growth, banks disbursed some Rs 500 billion on account of agricultural credit during the first seven months, July-January period, of this fiscal year.

According to State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), commercial banks, specialised banks, Islamic banks, domestic private banks, microfinance banks and microfinance institutions have cumulatively disbursed some Rs499.645 billion during the period under review compared to Rs351.358 billion in the same period of last fiscal year, depicting an increase of Rs 148.287 billion.

He said the government was doing its best to enhance financial and technical assistance to the farmers’ community.

“There is also a need to impart training to women to contribute towards strengthening of economy,” he said. Afzal added that the government has indeed provided opportunities to womenfolk to come forward and play their due role in the process of development.

He also stressed on the importance of forestry in addressing environmental issues and highlighted the economic opportunities it carries for farmers.  

The statement issued by the ministry said that according to well known Chinese expert Prof Dr Jikun Huang different stages in rural transformation can be described as: a) Rising food production through efficient irrigation and innovation technology. b) Agricultural diversification to higher value crops and livestock, through improved marketing and cold chains. c) Expanding non-farm employment through agriculture support services and small and medium enterprises in rural areas. d) Increasing specialization in certain brand products through technology and improved land rental and marketing policies. e) Further increase in off-farm jobs through land consolidation and mechanization. f) Integrated urban rural development by creating smart cities in rural areas.

Speakers including, Genevieve, policy consultant, UN-FAO, Dr Rashid Bajwa, CEO National Rural Support Program (NRSP), Yasir Ashfaq, CEO Pakistan Micro Finance Investment Company (PMIC), Dr Aslam from PARD, Shah Nasir Khisro from IRSP, Irshad Abbasi from AKF, and Muzaffar-Uddin from AKRSP shared their views with the audience.