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EconFest stresses urgent need of economic reforms

By Our Correspondent
March 13, 2023

LAHORE: Pakistan needs economic reforms as it is a matter of now or never. The consensus was developed in the concluding session of the first ever two-day EconFest held here at Alhamra hall organised by Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE).

The topic of the final discussion session was “Economic reforms - now or never”. However, according to the plan, former finance minister and noted economist Dr Hafeez Pasha was part of the panelists but he did not attend the discussion.

The final discussion panelists were Dr Nadeem Ul Haque, Vice-Chancellor of PIDE, Dr Salman Shah, Former Finance Minister, Shahid Kardar, Former Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, Former Chief Justice, Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, and Principal of the Kinnaird College, Dr Rukhsana David.

The panelists were of the view that that Pakistan needs economic reforms urgently because it is a matter of now or never. Dr Salman Shah said there is potential in Pakistan because we are the fifth most populated country in the world and the majority of the population is young. These human resources need to be provided with opportunities.

The reason for Pakistan’s failure has been the lack of an economic vision throughout its history. Although Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had a vision, he handed over control of the economy to the bureaucracy, which is not trained to do this job. And this is still the case.

Moreover, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, every country tried to reform its economy but Pakistan did not take any such step because of the volatile political situation at that time. As a result, today we are one of the least competitive countries in the world.

Now we have become an inward-looking country and import everything which is ultimately consumed in the country rather than exporting. We need to become an outward-looking economy, which is a matter of now or never because no one will bail you out anymore.

Shahid Kardar said there is a sense of helplessness among the youth because the state did not play its part. The most worrying thing is that Pakistan is a challenging economy to govern because of polarisation and other factors. We need a leadership that reconfigures the state but such a leadership is difficult to find. Everyone keeps on talking about increasing taxation but what we need is the rationalisation of expenditures.

Even after the 18th Amendment, there are 43 divisions under the federal government even though most of these divisions need to be closed down or privatised. In short, the government’s size needs to be reduced.

Pakistan’s First-Ever EconFest – a two days event of economic issues discussion was ended here on Sunday. The economic festival was jointly organized by the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), Research for Social Transformation and Advancement (RASTA), and the Pakistan Society of Development Economists (PSDE) has gotten thin response due to ongoing political tension in the city, road blockade and lack of public interests on serious discussions.