Surgical solutions

Our economic imbalances need surgery, as in every crisis lies an opportunity. The question this raises is whether Pakistan is ready to correct its imbalances in the operating theatre and have the surgery.

By Muhammad Sheroz Khan Lodhi
May 15, 2023

Our economic imbalances need surgery, as in every crisis lies an opportunity. The question this raises is whether Pakistan is ready to correct its imbalances in the operating theatre and have the surgery. The most important prerequisite for surgery isn’t economic. It is the quality of a country’s leadership that needs surgery to lead a competent government to see the significance of structural reforms and have the motivation, political will, and credibility to enact measures that are painful in the short term but yield rich and long lasting benefits in the long run. In reality, all of Pakistan's economic crises have their roots in governance crises. The ruling elites in Pakistan have historically been resistant to reform and have virtually always preferred to find quick fixes to long-term issues rather than implementing fundamental reforms. Leadership is crucial, but so is having a strong team of experts on hand to help the government design and put into effect policies that will allow the nation to navigate through crises and move forward with sustainable recovery and growth. Any system whose political leaders are not chosen through a genuine, transparent, and competitive process is doomed to fail sooner rather than later in the modern world. How can political parties run the affairs of the state with integrity if they don't uphold democracy and justice within their own ranks?

The level of expertise of the experts who developed and monitored the reform process was crucial in every successful case of a nation that chose the path to a better economic future. Yet again, the right team is chosen by the leadership, who then motivates them to perform. To do it, major changes in political party ideologies and practices are required. If political parties are to survive, dynastic politics, built on personality cults, must give way to meritocracy and equality of opportunity. Countries that were gaining independence from colonial domination in the 20th century needed charismatic leaders who could appeal to the emotions of the populace and inspire them to fight for their freedom.


Pakistan needs leaders today who play less on emotion and concentrate more on substance and performance. The crisis today is the most serious since 1971, whereas Pakistanis suffer from an inadequacy to state their wisdom, and there is always something to be said. It is time for branch and root surgery. There are numerous influences at work. There are far too many moving pieces in Pakistan and too few stable ones. It is constantly on the cusp of unpredictable happenings. In real actuality, the system is disintegrating.

Another important issue is the caliber and strength of the institution. This guarantees how effectively reform measures are put into place and how changes are made to the process to take account of evolving conditions. Again, Pakistan's situation is not encouraging given the generalist nature of the civil service and its ongoing erosion. The finance ministry, for instance, didn't have even one professional economist at various points in the past. In recent years, a significant barrier to policy execution has emerged: the deteriorating capacity of state institutions. The surroundings, both within the home and outside, are inappropriate. The state is at odds with everything that matters.

There are daggers inside it all. There is a significant amount of unhappiness. It has various hues and tones. It's challenging to draw a line. In all areas, there is a broad lawlessness. Everyone is cynical, which displays desperation. Have we ever seen such things earlier? It is a severe, ongoing, and escalating issue. The absence of the human component of leadership will cause the unpredictable to emerge from the chaos. The people of Pakistan have experienced a number of crises, beginning with Bengalis. Today is the same as yesterday. We need to stop lying and accept that this country’s real troubles lie elsewhere – gross economic disparity, victimization of women and children, the failure to institute land reform and abolish feudalism, failure to provide quality healthcare and education to all and not only to the privileged, and a high incidence of violence. One cannot build a modern society on a feudal foundation. To know one’s shortcomings is the prerequisite of the solution.

Conclusively, it’s important to realize that not everything in the garden is green. Limits to equilibrium exist. When our leaders today boast that Pakistan has endured for sixty years, they omit to explain that this is not the same Pakistan that was in 1947. It is time for Pakistan's political elite to humble themselves and repair the decline of competence that has doomed the vast majority of its citizens to an existence of indescribable suffering and degrading conditions. For the benefit of our economy and the general populace, our leaders ought to put an end to their quarrels. We Pakistanis are aware of the damage done to democracy and democratic institutions by the ruling class. As a class, it is "essentially bogus". The slide is much more than this or that. It is simply socio-economic and political disarray, let alone the lack of law and order and a lack of capacity and adroitness. And nothing will be settled until everything is settled, including the shift of focus.

– The writer is an economic analyst