Saturday October 01, 2022

Building an economy

By Editorial Board
August 16, 2022

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s offer to hold a national dialogue to develop consensus on a charter of economy is a timely step in the right direction. Keeping in view the dismal condition of the economy the current government inherited from the PTI in April this year, it is of vital significance that there be some agreement on the major and recurring issues of the economy. All stakeholders must take the prime minister’s offer seriously and work together to transform Pakistan’s economy into a viable machine that can function without regular foreign aid or support mechanisms. Being the fifth largest country in terms of population and having already celebrated its 75th anniversary of independence, Pakistan should not be in a situation where it struggles with the real fear of defaulting on debt; in fact, ideally, it should not be in a situation where it even has this much debt to default on. In this, the prime minister is right in having highlighted the need to make Pakistan into an economic power if the country wants to progress rapidly in the near future.

Unfortunately, one of the stakeholders needed for such charter of economy is the PTI, whose former minister Fawad Chaudhry has rubbished the PM’s idea of a charter of economy, calling it ‘communist’. For Mr Chaudhry, political parties can only agree on a ‘political framework’, and asking them to agree on an economic framework is reminiscent of communist systems. If one is to take the former minister’s views as representative of the former ruling party, this is a rather bizarre take on what is probably one of the most – if not the most – critical issues affecting the country: a teetering-on-the-edge economy. Pakistan has barely come out of an economic nightmare. The country has over the years been relying too much on foreign assistance from bilateral and multilateral sources without establishing a high-tech base so required in the 21st century. Without a sound economic foundation or framework, one that is not interrupted with every change in government, it would be futile to expect the country to move forward on building an economy. Plans and ‘visions’ sound great on paper but none has done the trick, mainly due to persistent political instability, pervasive apathy and confused policies. Now even after 75 years of independence, there is a sense of pessimism and foreboding. The very feasibility of Pakistan’s economic machinery is under question.

There is a perilous economic journey ahead that no one political party can embark on, without solid support from all other political and non-political institutions. When the people of the country are asked to ‘sacrifice’ even the bare minimum sustenance because of the current economic situation, it is hardly a tall ask for all political parties to sit together and come up one coherent economic plan, on that can be adhered to regardless of who wins the election, or which conspiracy narrative is doing the rounds at a given moment in our politics. No one is asking the parties to agree on everything – but on the main economic must-dos, a consensus is direly needed. We have already seen the havoc populist policies can wreak on a struggling economy. Let there not be a constant repeat of this. Sooner or later, all must realize that economic progress on solid grounds is tightly linked with the constitutional supremacy of democracy and rule of law. We cannot go on any further while begging and borrowing from others.