Tuesday August 09, 2022

HEC asks VCs to promote local drinks amid financial crisis

June 25, 2022

KARACHI: The Higher Education Commission (HEC) on Friday asked the vice-chancellors (VCs) of the public universities to promote local drinks, such as lassi and sattu as this will “increase employment and generate income for the public” amid the ongoing financial crisis in the country.

HEC acting chairperson Dr Shaista Sohail, in a circular, drew the VCs’ attention to the financial crisis confronting Pakistan and asked them to take a “leadership role and think of innovative ways to provide relief to the lower-income groups and the economy as a whole.” On behalf of the commission, she suggested the VCs to reduce fossil fuel imports by promoting research in alternate energy as a substitute for imported fossil fuel in motorcycles, busses, trains, cars, etc. Likewise, there is a need to decrease the import of edible oil imports, while the varsities should explore researches on local cooking oils and their marketing to replace imported edible oils, she added.

“Promote local tea plantations and also traditional drinks, which are locally manufactured and healthy like lassi and sattu. This will increase employment and also generate income involved in manufacturing these drinks for the public. The expenditure on the import of tea would reduce our import bill,” she said.

The HEC acting chairperson said: “I am sure that the honourable vice-chancellors will be able to innovatively explore many other avenues to create employment, reduce imports and ease the economic situation.”

Pakistan has been grappling with a widening current account deficit, depleting foreign exchange reserves, and a delay in the revival of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) loan agreement.

The foreign exchange reserves held by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) have fallen to as little as $8.2 billion as of June 17, and the Pakistani rupee is at record lows against the US dollar.

In the light of the current financial crisis, Minister for Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal earlier this month asked the fellow countrymen to cut down on tea consumption as part of the effort to reduce a rising import bill — but that suggestion was not welcomed. Well informed sources told The News that the acting chairperson, a few days ago, had met Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal and also Federal Education and Professional Training Minister Rana Tanvir. In those meetings, both the ministers urged the HEC high-ups to take measures for the promotion of local drinks to reduce the consumption of imported tea and edible oil.