LAHORE: As a result of past fertility trends, Punjab hit by demographic bulge has both opportunities and serious challenges which require the province to attain a sustained growth of 7 to 7.5 per cent a year.

The Punjab Resource Management Programme evaluated the growth rate with the assistance of Department of International Development (DFID)’s Technical Management Agency. Based on this study, the Punjab government released an Economic Growth Strategy paper with budget documents. The chief minister has approved the strategy, which will enable the Punjab government to prioritise its reform initiatives.

According to the strategy, the boon that is offered to the province is the result of greatly increased production due to much larger number of people in the working age group. However, this demographic dividend will not come automatically, but will have to be earned by investing in human resource development, infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing and other productive areas.

The paper points out that Punjab has a number of assets, the potential of which needs to be exploited fully. These include labour force, agriculture including horticulture, strategic location, a large SME sector and potential investment opportunities.

The paper recommends proper allocation of resources for education, health, infrastructure; investment in agriculture and creating an enabling environment for investment by improving domestic commerce and reducing the cost of doing business. This will enable the province to make the best of this demographic bulge.

The report says cropping pattern should reflect comparative advantage of the province and value added agricultural products should be encouraged. Efficiency of government machinery needs to be improved to provide better services. Public-private partnership should be encouraged and development portfolio of the province should be consolidated. Average growth rate in Punjab from 1990-2007 had been merely 5 per cent which needs to be improved.

Source: The News