Thursday June 20, 2024

Economic havoc

By Mansoor Ahmad
February 05, 2023

LAHORE: The incompetence of successive governments has faced numerous natural disasters in the past two decades that have also played havoc with our economy. We failed to rehabilitate the affected population in most cases due to lack of resources.

In 2005, we faced the worst earthquake of our history. Its economic implications were mainly limited to the personal losses of millions.

It was because the affected area lacked industries or was not a major agricultural area.

Still the rehabilitation in this episode was the best as the international community, friends of Pakistan and overseas Pakistanis pitched in large numbers. Most of the aid work was done by the donors themselves.

Saudi Arabia constructed the State of Art University in Muzaffarabad and some earthquake resistant residences in the affected areas. Turkey also built many houses, overseas Pakistanis constructed schools, dispensaries and earthquake resistant houses for the affected population.

The responsibility of providing adequate ration was adequately taken up by the middle class Pakistanis. Multilateral agencies and western powers gave cash to the government of Pakistan. That amount was not used transparently.

In subsequent two flash floods that devastated rural populations in Punjab and Sindh, the global response was lukewarm, but overseas Pakistanis and local entrepreneurs did build some self-sufficient villages in the affected areas selecting places that could remain safe from future floods and they have withstood later floods.

The most devastating natural disaster occurred last year impacting 35 million people depriving them of their houses, cattle, livestock and other assets, including total loss of standing crops.

This time the support from the international community was lukewarm. This time around neither the overseas Pakistanis pitched in for rehabilitation work nor the friendly countries came in to execute housing projects for the homeless.

Government did get cash dollars of a few hundred million. This aid was nothing in wake of the estimated loss of over $30 billion. Pakistan may get some more assistance in coming years, but most of the population living in misery cannot wait for years.

The loss of faith in all governments by international donors and overseas Pakistanis has created a trust deficit that is heavily impacting the welfare of the distressed population of Pakistan.

The economic loss suffered during recent floods last year is equivalent to the loss that Pakistan suffered during 25 years of US-Afghan war.

The devastation occurred at a time when our government was cash starved. Water is still standing in some areas of Sindh and Baluchistan six months after the floods.

The government, starved of resources, is making temporary arrangements for rehabilitation of the population, but lacks resources to reconstruct the infrastructure that has been completely wiped out by the floods.

We are paying the price of the growth strategy of our rulers who always preferred short-term growth objectives instead of long-term strategy. Fiscal mismanagement has forced the economic planners to look for short-term solutions instead of putting the country on a sustained growth path.

The development strategies in Pakistan are project based that are inefficiently used after completion. We build mega projects like Qaddafi stadium where three to four matches are held every year. The facility could be utilised round the year for different sports activities to generate revenues that are badly needed.

Pakistan’s survival lies in improved governance and quality of public institutions, introduction of market reforms, better urban management and facilitation to youth and community.

There is no dearth of resources in Pakistan. The actual problem is the judicial use of resources, in fact we have exhausted many resources without even using them.