close
Sunday April 14, 2024

A bumpy road ahead

A policy framework is immediately needed to address myriad issues plaguing this country – from economy and politics to social fragmentation and polarization

By Hassan Baig
March 05, 2024
Women buy grocery at a wholesale market in Lahores Akbari Market. — Online/File
Women buy grocery at a wholesale market in Lahore's Akbari Market. — Online/File

Pakistan currently faces a myriad of challenges that need to be tackled at the policy level. The main challenge relates to the country’s economy. The gigantic task ahead for the new coalition government is to restore the confidence of the people of Pakistan in the electoral system.

A policy framework is immediately needed to address the myriad issues plaguing this country – from economy and politics to social fragmentation and polarization.

The new government branded as PDM2.0 has to take up the issues of the economy on an emergency basis. But it has to take steps to restore the confidence of people in the system. For this, political leaders need to sit down to promote social cohesion as this society has suffered a lot due to political polarization.

The question is which task needs to be taken first and which one can be left for later? I think the government has to resolve all issues simultaneously as they are interconnected. The country of almost 250 million people cannot remain in confusion and isolation for a longer period. The country now needs to adopt policies that can heal the wounds of our polarized society through reconciliation.

A hard bargain is underway for the new coalition government. The political situation is quite volatile and vulnerable. The political parties in parliament have their own preferences and priorities for the next government. The most difficult task is to maintain the balance and work for the larger interest of the nation as they are passing through a difficult phase of economic and political crises.

The wisdom of political leadership is needed to tackle the political crisis. Ideally, all political leaders including Imran Khan should be consulted and taken on board to solve the political puzzle. Otherwise, this crisis may cause another government to pack up and leave within a short span.

The economy is the most important chapter to be addressed by the new government. Another IMF package would probably ease the situation on the ground to avoid a possible sovereign default as huge loans are to be repaid during the next three years. However, there is a definite cost to be paid by the people of Pakistan to get the IMF loan facility.

The conditions attached to such loan extensions are stringent and difficult to absorb for the poor and the middle class of this country. Several reports suggest that many people are already resorting to extreme measures like committing suicide. This situation must be considered by international financial institutions when drafting loan terms for developing countries like Pakistan.

A long-term economic plan needs to be chalked out to enhance exports through massive investment in industrial clusters by extending tax incentives to investors and exporters. Special economic zones (SEZs) may be taken up as a priority for such clusters that are providing jobs to the people of Pakistan. The security situation has to be improved at all costs to attract investment in the country.

A long-term plan is also needed to tackle the issue of huge loans as Pakistan is in the severe grip of a vicious cycle of a huge debt crisis. The young population is a great resource who can be trained to enhance e-commerce in the country, earning remittances through skill development by facilitating them with proper networking and training, especially in the field of IT.

The concept of self-reliance may be promoted to get rid of loans through slow and steady progress. This can be done if a consensus is reached for a charter of economy, badly needed by Pakistanis. Inclusive growth is the new concept to be followed for development and achieving high GDP growth. A growth target of at least six per cent or more is needed for 10-15 years to get rid of loans if Pakistan wants to become an Asian Tiger.

Policymakers and think tanks must do something about political polarization in the country to promote unity among all sections of society. Luckily, political parties have emerged as the main crowd pullers, essentially needed to forge unity and consensus among the nation. All political parties need to sit down to chalk out a strategy to take this nation ahead for the overall progress and development of the country.

Political leaders need to convince people to believe in the political and electoral systems, otherwise, things may go towards disintegration, which must be avoided at all costs by the political, intellectual and powerful classes of this country. The use of force is not effective and must be avoided. Political parties can do this job of convincing people efficiently. That tool must be used for the much-needed political consensus and social cohesion.

Young people in society are at odds with the system in place, which is not delivering at all as far as the hopes and dreams of the young generation are concerned. The young are losing hope in the process of political manipulation. Social cohesion for any progressive society is direly needed. Pakistan is in a state of social disintegration. Hopelessness is the worst thing in a country like Pakistan which has a huge percentage of young people. Now the real test is for political parties to help revive the confidence of the young generation in the system for a better tomorrow.

There is no easy path to tread and tackle all these complex issues. Only a wise political leader can take this nation out of this economic, political and social downturn. The prime minister will have a huge burden of responsibilities to withstand pressures and push-ups to achieve the goal of politico-socio-economic revival.

The ideal situation would be the revival of hope in the political institution, which is a must to help revive the economy. But it is neither easy nor simple as it seems to be. There are a lot of ifs and buts. A whole new set of measures must be taken by the government to achieve the goal of progress and prosperity in the country. It has to go a long way to achieve this goal.

Lastly, the new coalition government should immediately start the process of the healing of society by taking appropriate measures. The vision and mission of economic, political and social revival can only be achieved through long-term planning and consensus and reconciliation. There are no shortcuts in the process to get rid of this morass and morbidity. Inclusiveness is essentially needed to achieve the goal of a prosperous and progressive Pakistan.


The writer is a former additional secretary and can be reached at: hassanbaig2009@gmail.com