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Sunday July 21, 2024

Hope still alive

By Mansoor Ahmad
February 03, 2023

LAHORE: The survival of Pakistan despite loot, corruption, incompetence and bad governance in the past seventy five years simply speaks of the enormous natural and human resources of the country that still has the potential to become a vibrant economic power.

We have been exploited by the corrupt politicians, dictators and bureaucrats who have parked cumulative assets of at least three times our external liabilities. The businessmen have also played their part in supporting non-transparent governance. Now the masses are in total despair. We are looking for foreign assistance but are not positioning ourselves to exploit the resources available in our country.

Let us just look at the potential of this country. It has the largest integrated canal irrigation system around the globe. Pakistan is the 9th largest producer of wheat in the world. We produce excess wheat than our requirement, but due to bad governance, hoarders and smugglers move it out of Pakistan through our porous borders.

We rank fourth globally in milk production. We waste about 30 percent of our produce due to the absence of pasteurisation techniques so common in neighbouring India and Bangladesh. Instead of exporting milk products, we have to import them, including the import of milk powder.

We are among the 10 largest producers of rice. We have surplus basmati variety (long grain aromatic variety) but we have lost most of the global market to Indian long grain (non-aromatic) variety because the Indians through research have managed to obtain double yield than our basmati and have also reduced their production cost.

We have the world's largest integrated canal irrigation system, but its utility is halved due to absence of proper maintenance.

Pakistan has the largest rock salt deposits in the world. Is it not unfortunate that we export our rock salt to India at a throw away price, which it exports at a high price as their rock salt brand. Then we have a huge reservoir of coal at Thar. We import coal at a high price because our cheap coal needs to be consumed while it has moisture in it.

If the moisture evaporates, the coal ignites to ashes. All we need is to lay down a 100km Railway line to connect with the Thar mine so that it could be transported quickly in time to coal power plants.

The matter is pending for over five years. India on the other side of the border has consumed the same coal completely. We have enough reservoirs to last 100 years.

Pakistan’s demographics are favourable to growth. It is a young country with low dependency ratios.

Over 63 per cent of its population is below the age of 25. Millions of Pakistanis under the age of 30 are slowly receiving better access to healthcare and education, which enables the younger generation to drive the economy by virtue of middle class growth.

They will become consumers, spend discretionary income, and enjoy the associated status. They need harnessing to create a middle class that would spur domestic customer demand for goods and services.

While most of the industries are redrawing their strategies, most are likely to survive this difficult phase. There is a silver lining amid the anarchy we see at present and the positives do point towards a better future.

Firstly, in the era of the acutest ever financial crisis, Pakistan’s banking system has stood solid displaying its strength when banks the world over are still under stress. Second is that awareness created by social media has regularly exposed the corrupt. With time and if the thrust continued, indulging in corrupt practices would become difficult.

Another positive is that our exporters have boosted the confidence of foreign buyers by delivering goods in time despite bad law and order, terror threats and power crisis. The power crisis has forced the private sector to generate power through alternate sources and reduce its dependence on public sector utilities.

New technologies are being introduced in which high productive high tech machines are replacing existing machines. Besides increasing production these machines consume 40 percent less power.