Wednesday September 22, 2021

Economy and security

October 11, 2020

Politics and economics are inseparable. Economics and national security are also inseparable. The world over, the economy is the key political battleground. Not in Pakistan. The world over, a parliamentary democracy “lives from the relations between parliament and government.’ Not in Pakistan. The world over, the “opposition’s main role is to question the government of the day and hold it accountable.” Not in Pakistan.

We have a government that refuses to sit with the opposition – and an opposition that calls the government ‘selected’. We have a government that claims that it is being fully backed by the ‘establishment’ but the ‘establishment’ can give the government neither good governance nor an economic policy. Sadly, Pakistan’s politics has become a zero-sum game for the 220 million Pakistanis.

Right now, 64 percent of Pakistan’s population is younger than 30. Right now, we have more young people than we ever had. Right now, we are one of the youngest countries in the world. Our coal reserves are estimated at 175 billion tons. Gas reserves of 885 billion cubic meters. Our hydropower potential stands at 60,000 MW (of which only 7,500 has been developed). We have one of the largest irrigation systems on the face of the planet. We are the second largest pea producer; fourth largest cotton producer; fourth largest sugarcane producer; fifth largest milk producer; sixth largest date producer and the eighth largest wheat producer. We have iron ore, copper, gold, limestone and salt. We are strategically located between South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. We have a 814km coastline.

It is because of our political instability that we are at 152 out of 189 countries in the Human Development Index. It is because of our political instability that Pakistan is ranked 120 out of 180 countries on the Corruption Perception Index. It is because of our political instability that we are ranked 108 out of 188 in the Ease of Doing Business Rankings. Why are we at 141 out of 201 in the Freedom of the Press Survey? Why are we at 110 out of 141 in the Global Competitiveness Report? Why are we at 119 out of 147 in the Global Opportunity Index?

According to an empirical study by the IMF, “political instability significantly reduces economic growth...Our results suggest that governments in politically fragmented countries with high degrees of political instability need to address its root causes... Only then, countries could have durable economic policies that may engender higher economic growth.”

Our political infrastructure is dysfunctional. France now has the Fifth French Republic. South Korea adopted a new constitution under the Fourth Republic. Ghana now has the Fourth Republic. The Philippines came under the Fourth Republic in 1981. Nigeria adopted a new constitution under the Fourth Republic. Hungary wrote up a new constitution under the Fourth Republic.

We must rectify our political dysfunction – we have all other prerequisites for robust economic growth. For the record, there are around 12 dozen democracies. For the record, 100 out of the 12 dozen are presidential or semi-presidential. Three dozen out of the 12 dozen are parliamentary (almost all parliamentary democracies are ex-British colonies).

Economics is also concentrated politics – and national security’s most important dimension is economic in nature. Politics, economics and national security – that’s the sacred triangular nexus. This state of ‘permanent political conflicts’ must end.

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad.

Email: [email protected] Twitter: @saleemfarrukh