Pakistan has abundant water resources but an inefficient and poorly managed irrigation system, according to speakers addressing the launch ceremony of a report titled ‘The State of the Economy: Agriculture and Water’ here on Monday. The report was prepared and launched by the Shahid Javed Burki Institute of Public Policy (BIPP).
The Pakistani economy may be turning the corner and approaching a sustainable rate of growth that has been attained by other Asian high-performing economies, the speakers also maintained.
Syed Babar Ali, Shahid Javed Burki, Dr Iftikhar Ahmad Chaudhary and Dr Mahmood Ahmad were among the key speakers at the ceremony.
Firstly, the report reviews the state of the Pakistani economy, and secondly, it takes a careful look at the contribution that the agriculture sector can make in reviving the economy and putting it on a high growth trajectory. Providing a historical overview of the agriculture sector, the report brings out the successes, weaknesses, and growing challenges which the sector faces. It dwells on key areas of policy concerns including productivity and pricing issues, the need for a robust seed policy, weaknesses in horticulture marketing, low yields in the livestock sector, and the importance of setting quality standards. It also highlights the stagnation of agricultural exports and proposes specific policy reforms for consideration by the government.
The report suggests innovative models for increasing agricultural productivity based on the value chain and underscores the importance of farmers’ access to finance, the establishment of agriculture infrastructure, the capacity building of all actors and entities involved in agriculture, access to technology, and the institution of a robust market information and intelligence system.
Discussing the potential of the agricultural sector, the report stresses the importance of the judicious and economic use of water in advancing the sector.
Dr Mahmood Ahmad in his address said that water pricing can improve irrigation efficiency, as farmers change their practices to save water and it can also mobilise funds to maintain the overall irrigation infrastructure.
Addressing the participants, Syed Babar Ali said that a water distribution system should be formulated in the country, adding that small farmers receive very little water due to a lack of infrastructure. He was of the view that unless the concerned officials start travelling by road instead of helicopters, they would not able to understand the problems facing farmers.
Shahid Javed Barki said that his team had carried interviews of concerned persons for the preparation of the report, adding that the country must shift its focus keeping in mind the state of the national economy.