Transition generation leaders
By: Marvi Memon | August 01, 2012
Ever since time immemorial, the thirst for maximisation of natural resources has led to the alteration of the world map. Empires have been made and broken. Countries have been born and split. But the rat race for resources still goes on.
Whilst most countries can dream of hegemonic designs for maximisation of wealth, there are only a few who will actually make the geopolitical race to the top of the pyramid. Countries like Pakistan can’t in their current state aim for top pyramid positions; they need to at least aim at getting out of bottom layer to the middle layer for the next 10 years or so. And that can only happen with planning for the crisis, which will hit Pakistan and the rest of the world.
At a time when the American empire reigns, there are certain larger world crises we need to beware of so that our country can survive the 21st century. Even though we will personally not be around to see the entire century, we certainly have a responsibility as politicians to plan for our future generations.
In light of this responsibility, there is a need for politicians of all parties to come together for a joint vision document or manifesto, which will make certain promises in terms of a path for Pakistan. Individually, all political parties make similar sounding manifesto promises. It is time to sign off on a joint Vision-Manifesto. Future parliaments must have a Vision-Manifesto committee to oversee that political parties stick to their promises. They must ensure this has constitutional protection so it’s taken seriously. The vision document must prepare Pakistan for the big crisis of the century. Only then can we turn our demographic disaster into a dividend.
Invariably, there is a worldwide race for natural resources like oil, water, and minerals. There is nothing new about this race. It happens every century. Every century, there are different combinations of hegemons that countries align themselves to for surviving the race. In the current century whilst the American empire is reigning, China is seen by many as posing a new cold war threat. China is the other alternative countries can latch onto when American supremacy gets unbearable. China’s thirst and race for energy in all continents at easier terms of political interference than US might sound appealing to some countries and, therefore, its influence has grown substantially. Armed with savvy businessmen and diplomats having mastered the art of resource maximisation, the Chinese are posing a threat to American domination.
Those leaders, who will provide solutions to the mega world crisis in each country, will be referred to as ‘Transition Generation Leaders’. Their task will be to look for sustainable solutions to the crisis, which will make us transit from one century to the next. They will need to identify solutions, which are not geared towards political short-term vote tactics or business short-term profits. Solutions which don’t lead us to the tragedy of the commons by which we mean the overexploitation of non-renewable resources. When transition generation leaders take charge in each country, the chances of the world heading towards mayhem will reduce.
Mega problems such as global warming, excessive population growth, water shortages, mass famine, desertification, pandemics, extreme poverty, growth of shanty cities, global migrations, non-state actors with extreme weapons, could all lead us towards dark ages if we don’t have transition generation leaders in all our countries. What we need to realise is that in the 21st century, the obstacle to prosperity will not be a lack of human made capital, but a lack of natural capital. This is not so well understood for now.
Interestingly, whilst some economic, regional hegemons are increasing their GDPs and are proudly entering the rat race for top tier pyramid, they are depleting their natural capital. This is not a recipe for real success because their ability to feed their populations is invariably decreasing. On the other hand, the current developed countries have severe aging demographic issues. Today, Europe has 35 percent pensioners to feed. In 2050, it will have 75 percent. Here is an opportunity for those countries whose demographics are younger to take advantage and send their teeming populations to earn foreign currency in such regions.
Pakistan and many Muslim countries have enviable demographics and natural resources; but most of them also have a complete disregard for managing them sustainably and transparently. Whilst we need to get our individual country acts together, the commonalities of the issues that will be borderless demand an international response almost like an international vision document.
The developed world has taken decisions on their foreign policy options based on resource maximisation. They have made economic blocs to enhance their economic competencies. Has the Muslim Ummah ever put a blueprint for how it could do the same? The European countries are joined by geography. And they have accomplished a European bloc that is so economically intertwined. The Muslim Ummah is joined together by something which is larger than all – religion. Despite this, we have not done resource maximisation mapping and worked together to take care of each other, which is in fact a clear Muslim obligation on all of us. We have been successfully divided bringing back memories of the humiliating defeat and retreat of Islam in the past centuries. We have truly not thought of what obligations exist on all of us living in the Muslim Ummah to collectively feed each other’s populations.
In actual fact, if we have to feed our Muslim populations adequately, we need to combine natural resources, infrastructure, and labour. We cannot be simply funding madrassahs some of which become breeding grounds for terrorists attacking our own populations. We have to look beyond the short-term objectives of playing in each other’s backyards.
It is time for the transition generation leaders of the Muslim Ummah to put their heads together, get a calculator out and start mobilising the masses for resource maximisation. Here are some Muslim countries other than Pakistan whose populations are more than 50 percent youth based and are thus sitting on a tremendous wealth of productive labour force: Afghanistan, Albania, Chad, Djibouti, Gambia, Guinea, Iran, Jordan, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Somalia, Sudan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.
All these countries have tremendous amounts of useful natural resources or natural capital, despite most of their GDPs and stability statistics not being so enviable. These countries are either going to turn towards a demographic disaster or, if correctly steered, can turn into a demographic dividend. Their infrastructure capabilities to generate dividends out of their natural resource pool will need tremendous support. These countries are currently not on any fast track list. But they can be. They need to think and act together. They need to help each other train their labour force. They need to manage their natural resource pools. And most importantly, they need to politically stabilise their nation states for the future. If they don’t, they won’t survive the onslaught of the mega world crises of the 21st century.
Pakistan’s transition generation leaders need to concentrate on trained youth, natural resources, infrastructure and a concept of the knowledge-based economy. Any impediment to making a powerful cohesion between these ingredients for feeding our future generations needs to be intelligently managed. Similarly, Pakistan needs to play its due role in getting the Muslim Ummah together before its gets trampled by the global and regional hegemons in this rat race for natural capital.
The writer is a former Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan.