President Zardari was in an exculpatory mood last Thursday as he talked informally with the BBC after a lunch at the presidency. While he was quick to say that 3,500MW of power had been added to the national grid during his tenure, he omitted to mention that most of that came from projects initiated by the last government. He did admit to a failure to beat the power crisis or restrain inflation, but blamed the global financial crisis and the eternally increasing price of oil – on which we are perilously dependent to power what is left of our generating facilities. It was, as ever, somebody else’s fault, except that it isn’t. The economy is falling apart. The textile manufacturing industry has taken flight en-masse to Bangladesh. Unemployment rises steadily and as the world recovers from the financial disasters of the last five years – all of them very much man-made let us not forget – Pakistan has failed to keep pace with the growth in global trade.
Our share of global trade has reduced from 0.20 percent in 1990 to 0.18 percent in 2011. All of our neighbours and other regional players, with the exception of Afghanistan, have increased their share according to newly-published figures from the World Trade Organisation (WTO). India has taken its share from 0.40 percent in 1995 to 1.80 percent in 2011, a four and a half times jump. China, in the same period, quadrupled its share to reach 9.8 percent of all global trade. Our exports were valued at $25.344 billion in 2011, against imports of $44.012 billion in the same year. One does not have to be a financial wizard to understand that these figures are bad news. The reasons why we lag behind are equally obvious, and the frustrations at lost opportunity expressed by industrialists and businessmen entirely understandable. Our market share of the global textile trade has declined from around two percent at the turn of the century to 1.34 percent today. Textile and clothing make up 60 percent of our exports. We lag behind because, unlike our neighbours and competitors, the government has not offered the incentives and facilitations that have promoted growth in other countries. If our textile industry had the same access to financing, at the same preferential rates as in India and China, our exports could quickly increase by 40 percent according to one industry analyst. Another opined that our chronically poor law and order situation, inflation and the crippling power crisis probably knocked off 30 percent from our production capacity in this one sector alone every year. The drop in productivity cannot be laid at the feet of those with the capacity to produce. They can deliver the goods but only if the government delivers on its end of the deal – and that it has signally failed to do.