Tuesday February 27, 2024

Economic reforms

This is a repeat of almost all elections where economic prudence is sacrificed to gain power

February 13, 2024
This image shows a shipping activity at Port Qasim. — APP/File
This image shows a shipping activity at Port Qasim. — APP/File

LAHORE: Pakistan’s problems have apparently intensified after the elections as the focus of the political parties is on forming the next government and not on the economy. The aspiring parties are prepared to accept conditions of elected members that may not be acceptable to the IMF.

The economy may be on the back burner but some wheeling and dealing is on to gain independent members’ support. The money is being bankrolled to attract members but at the same time promises of some position in the new setup along with constituency based development funds that would be executed through elected members are being made. This is a repeat of almost all elections where economic prudence is sacrificed to gain power.

This process has always distorted the economy. No government in this century has been able to genuinely start a mega project as all funds that are arranged through loans are spent on projects that have no economic value as they generate no economic activity.

There are apprehensions that a government formed through deals would be a repeat of previous setups. Pakistan’s economic woes have deepened after the formation of each government as the fiscal deficit has continued to enlarge in each of the last 24 years of this century.

This time around the nation cannot afford that governments are formed after pleasing certain members to get their support.

Mere promises of reducing rates are not enough. The party leaders should come out with a timeline after which some relief could be expected. If someone promises something good in the first 100 days, he is fooling the electorate. The ground realities are quite opposite.

Our economy is in disarray. We do not have any planning. In every budget we overrun the budgeted expenditure and slash most of the budgeted development program. This is because after taking trillions in loans we ignore real development and look for public appeasing and anti-economic measures. This luxury was never available to the previous three governments but they indulged in it, which has brought the economy to its brink. We need a national government based on true economic principles where no one could sanction funds on whims. Where every member of the government would dedicatedly save every penny.

Every member of the government must operate with a clarity that Pakistan is a poor state and their expenses and way of life should depict it. Since the last three elections,mthe state has lacked the resources for development expenditure, but funds are arranged through loans to please the members of the parliament.

There is a dire need to upgrade and build infrastructure in Pakistan. But the development funds arranged at high interest rates are spent on patch works in streets and on projects that do not generate any revenue.

It is unfortunate that no single party has got a simple majority in the hung parliament. The PTI with over 92 seats (elected as independents) is the largest party, followed by PML-N with 78 seats, PPP 54 seats and MQM with 17 seats out of results of 264 seats declared.

For a simple majority, a party would require 133 general seats and after election of women and minorities, the required number to form a government would be 173. So there will have to be a coalition.