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March 22, 2020

Whimsical actions reflect government’s indifference to economic wisdom

Business

March 22, 2020

LAHORE: PTI-led regime is not ready to pay heeds to logical reasoning and that’s been mirroring in its wrong-headedness for almost two years in taking policy actions without consultations.

It is an enigma that the present government is not prepared to listen to reason. Decisions are taken without meaningful consultation. Above all, the planners stubbornly defend their wrong decisions although ground realities demand re-adjustment of policies.

Key economic planners have no strong roots in Pakistan. They would move out of the country whenever they are relieved of their jobs. For the central bank governor the interest rates have to be lucrative for the foreign fund managers even if it comes at the cost of growth and de-industrialisation. For the PM adviser on finance, pleasing the IMF and protecting the influential sectors is a priority even if it marginalises the poor.

Even the most competent economic managers commit mistakes but once they realise the flaws they do not stubbornly defend their decisions. They consult other economic experts to change the policies or fine-tune them. They welcome sensible suggestions.

Pakistan’s economy has been on a rollercoaster ever since this government assumes power. For the first six months, the previous government was blamed for the debacle. But public at large refused to buy this argument thereafter. Economy needs careful planning and extremely competent economic managers. You do not float whimsical ideas or create wrong hopes among electorate that is not based on economic logic.

There are many instances in this regard. The first was to eradicate poverty by providing poultry birds to the poor families. The government hasn’t realised that poultry farming is now a high tech business that protects the birds from all infections by raising them in controlled sheds and not in family backyards. The country needs a strong economic approach instead of false hopes.

It is a folly to pin our all hopes of economic revival on discovery of offshore oil. There was no discovery and that dashed hopes. Our Prime Minister thinks that all our debt would be wiped out through Reko Diq gold. This optimism is despite the fact that the international court fines Pakistan heavily for violating the agreement with a foreign firm for exploration of the project. The government has lost all hopes of genuine economic revival and is banking on divine help only. You have to sweat to be able to qualify for divine help. If we want to move ahead we will have to improve our real economy. We will have to forge national unity.

The rulers will have to take the lead and chalk out a unified strategy to fight the corona virus threat and imminent rise in poverty. The cricket-turned politician Imran Khan unfortunately is in no mode of reconciliation. He ignored the question of a senior journalist for asking the opposition to join hands with the government on current crisis in the country.

Pakistan is a resource-rich country and the resilience of its population is beyond doubt. We could cash on these strengths by beginning a new start based on national unity. Difference of opinion is the beauty of democracy.

We need rule of law and its fair implementation to give a kick-start to our economy. This in no way means that all policies of this government are flawed. The problem with the imported economic managers is they go by the book and traditions followed by the west. They are not aware of ground realities in Pakistan. When they announce reforms to document economy they should also realise that over 50 percent of our economy is not documented and they should not adopt harsh ways to force undocumented sectors to document.

Another point worth noting is that past rulers like the current ones might have committed mistakes and some of these mistakes might have been deliberate as is the case in the present regime. This in no way makes the past rulers unpatriotic. Time and again, they have proved their patriotism. They, however, should be brought to book on past deliberate mistakes along with those that committed similar follies in present regime – sugar and wheat hoarding and the Peshawar bus rapid transit projects.

Fairness apart there should be no witch-hunting. All businessmen are patriots. If they evade taxes or accumulate illegal wealth they should be tried in normal courts of the country and not by the National Accountability Bureau. At the same time, favouritism to the government should also be made fully accountable.