Travel and Tourism - Pakistan - February 2013
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With a relatively young population of over 170 million people and a burgeoning educated middle class, Pakistan is seen as a key player in South Asia with significant potential for growth. Despite local instability, regional politics and global economic challenges, the country’s economy has shown resilience. The main socio-economic issues impeding the country’s development are education, unemployment and corruption. Pakistan’s population is relatively young (median age is below 22 years) but with the high percentage of children outside of schools (40% as per estimates cited by the WEF) and the significant dropout rates, youth unemployment is a growing concern and a source of the widening income gap. In addition to the serious socio-economic problems, development in Pakistan is impeded by significant illegal activities associated with terrorism, drug trafficking and smuggling.
One of the most problematic issues for the country is the territorial dispute over Kashmir, which is described as the largest and most militarised territorial dispute in the world. A 2004 ceasefire between India and Pakistan is still maintained but little advance has been made towards resolution of the conflict. The dispute between the two countries is a source of security concerns and political problems but also a serious barrier to economic integration of the region. Despite the existence of legal frameworks such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA), the trade barriers between India and Pakistan remain large. Regional economic integration and more active collaboration between the two countries (for example in education) are seen by experts as essential for Pakistan’s economic growth. Part of the problem is that some of the current bilateral trade is conducted through informal means. The WEF Global Agenda Council for Pakistan estimates that unofficial trade between India and Pakistan is around US$2.0 billion per year, not including trade via Dubai, where the port of origin of products is relabelled. These inefficient methods of undertaking trade are impeding regional integration and depriving governments of tax and customs revenues.
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