Tuesday May 24, 2022

Status quo ante

August 10, 2021

It is a matter of great concern that status quo ante is ruling the roost in Pakistan at all levels despite tall claims by the government of changing it.

However, society is almost the same with the same past learning and attitude driving the dynamics. Illiteracy is probably also driving the force of such status quo in and around us. We see extreme cases of nepotism and bribery in all almost all departments and sections of society. Street crimes have multiplied. Cases like Usman Mirza, as rightly noticed by the prime minister of Pakistan, are rampant.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) related to education, health care, poverty alleviation have already been missed and now we are poised to miss the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well. Then how can we expect a change in society? The government must take cognizance of this aspect of human development, including but not limited to education, which is of utmost importance to get out of this mess. A huge population growth is also disturbing all sorts of planning and economic development in a resource-constrained country like Pakistan.

Political division in Pakistan is the order of the day. The leadership of all parties must come forward to stop the current mudslinging which is giving a bad name to politics in the country. The political polarisation is definitely weakening the system, and the country in itself. So many times, in the chequered history of Pakistan, has this given way to an unconstitutional setup. That has to be avoided at all costs, as Pakistan can no more afford such luxury. Only a united nation can defend itself against the evil designs of our new rivals and arch enemies.

The same old tactics are being used by our political parties. Cases are prepared by the anti-corruption establishment and accountability apparatus mostly against opposition parties. These are then either quashed or set aside by the superior courts due to lack of either evidence or proper pursuance. If it is not the case, then so-called corrupt politicians either get relief through plea-bargain or maximum through bails granted by the courts – again due to lack of evidence. This is something to be addressed so as to have clean politics in the country. Fair trial is a right of every citizen and for this an even handed approach is required.

The most important factor is our economics, especially development economics. Infrastructure development is one of the pre-conditions to qualify for such development. Our economy needs to grow, at least 6-7 percent per year, taking into account the population growth. Infrastructure development is a must thing to achieve any goal of development economics, for which all sectors of economy need to grow at a fast pace. There is a need of more investment in Information Technology, which can bring revolution in economic development. There is a huge potential in this sector, which needs to be tapped for utilisation of full potential of our economy. Our investment portfolio, especially foreign direct investment (FDI) needs to be optimised for balanced growth and development.

If we look at our economic growth in different sectors, we see no substantial change – whether it is agriculture or industry or services – though one can argue that the corona pandemic has been a huge factor. Economic growth for the last 13 years has been hovering between 3 and 4 percent on average, which is a dismal picture.

Last year’s Economic Survey reminded me of all the other similar reports for the last so many years. The only exception was the brief period of General Musharraf during 2003-2007, soon after 9/11 when America and its allies invaded Afghanistan for which Pakistan was compelled to support them owing to multiple reasons, although Pakistan suffered a lot in the process. The economic growth during this brief period was due to various reasons right from remittances of overseas Pakistanis to the CSF, but again the growth was not sustainable, as obviously it was achieved on a non-sustainable basis. What we need now is to achieve sustainable growth in all three sectors of economy supported by foreign direct investment.

The writer is an economist.