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Monday June 24, 2024

Economic revival

By Mansoor Ahmad
May 19, 2024
A man selling vegetables waits for customers at his makeshift stall at Empress Market in Karachi. —  Reuters/File
A man selling vegetables waits for customers at his makeshift stall at Empress Market in Karachi. —  Reuters/File

LAHORE: We need a strong government capable of exerting its writ, instead of succumbing to public pressure. Our problems are numerous, and resources are extremely limited; they should not be wasted on public appeasement.

Inflation is coming down, but food is still expensive for 40 percent of our population. Unemployment is at an historic high, utility prices are unbearable, and healthcare facilities are expensive. More than 2.5 million children are out of school, and the quality of education in state-run schools is pathetic. Commuting for work, school, or for any other purpose is a luxury that few could afford. The poor prefer to walk as much as possible.

These are the realities of life in Pakistan. The government is not in a position to resolve even a single one of the above issues, even if it spends the total available resources at its disposal. It is short of resources because it lacks the writ to confront those who challenge its writ through corruption, tax evasion, smuggling, and in business transactions.

These elements are very strong and look solely after their interests. Whenever they feel that the state is serious about denying them undue privileges, they make efforts to divert the attention of the government towards other issues by fanning strikes, agitations, and more strikes. This way, the government is distracted from its original objectives.

This is happening in Pakistan. Vested interests realize that there is a general discontent in society. Most of this discontent is because of these vested interests that have been minting wealth for decades without paying their due taxes. However, the general public blames every sitting government for the miseries they face.

The government in power has, to date, managed to survive on compromises, giving a lollipop here and there without touching the tax-avoiding culprits.

Every government has tried to cling to power on compromises, and the writ of the state has continued to deteriorate.

Survival of the state is no longer possible with this government attitude. The economy has stabilized in recent months, but the actual revival is far away. The innumerable problems faced by the people of Pakistan will not be solved overnight. The present government must make it clear and exert its writ without worrying about a slide in its popularity for the next elections. The rulers must realize that given current resources, no issue impacting the general public will be fully addressed. This will, anyway, dent its popularity, and the uncertainty of the economy will continue.

It would be better if the government were to induct needed reforms at a fast speed without worrying about the strikes or agitations. The tax evaders must be documented through a transparent process and handled even-handedly. All exemptions must be withdrawn forthwith. The government may fall after these reforms, but if done transparently, it would not be possible to reverse them by any government that succeeds them.

This is the time to prefer national interest above all other things. We are in a dire state. This government has already wasted a lot of time. Without proper reforms and transparency, our survival will be at stake.