A glimpse into the Pakistani vortex
PAKISTAN is painstakingly treading through the dire straits. It is entangled in a gloomy economy, political instability and rising inflation that has made the life of the common man increasingly onerous.
Energy and fuel costs are soaring high. Imports are on the rise while exports are majorly declining, putting immense pressure on the current account deficit that has led to the foreign reserves dipping low.
The worst part, there’s no respite remedy in sight. Though the IMF released a tranche of one billion and thirteen crore dollars, yet no immediate impact has been noticed.
The national poverty rate may increase by 2.5 to 4 percentage points and growth may touch 2.5% as estimated by the World Bank.
The inflation is at an all-time high at 22% while some independent economists estimate it to be 35%.Mr. Miftah Ismail, the then Finance Minister at the time of the IMF deal, was blossoming in hopes that friendly countries and financial institutions would come forward with their own loan packages after the deal with IMF was stamped.
All in all, he had estimated an accumulation of a gross sum of eight million dollars that would have sufficed to lessen the financial woes to some extent.
However, that was not meant to be. Neither the treasure was to be found nor did any prince charming turn up for the rescue.
Our PM cut a sorry face in one of his recent addresses by stating that when he visited any country or called a head of state they thought he would beg for money.
Our friendly nations don’t take us seriously anymore. We are engulfed in a financial, political and social turmoil like never before.
Floods aggravated the situation further. The UN Secretary General had appealed to the rich countries for a minimum donation of $ 160 millions to aid the flood victims.
In response he could barely collect $ 38 millions. None of the countries came forward with cash aid, though they did send plane loads of clothes, medicines, foodstuff and tents.
The countries which did aid in material included Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. So why are they hesitating to aid us in cash!
Some countries like the US and Saudi Arabia did announce monetary help but have yet to unzip their pockets.
And whatever happened to the benignity of our good old friend China! Are we so naïve to not understand the international community’s ubiquitous indifference, exhibited even in the face of a grave disaster?
An unequivocal message is conveyed that we have lost the trust and confidence of even our most friendly nations.
We had knocked at the doors of IMF twenty two times, the most by any country and yet we could not sustain the economy on our own.
The world had generously donated during the earthquake of 2005, still the victims of that calamity are longing for aid to rebuild their houses and businesses.
The world would like to know what we did with our past loans and aid. They can’t turn a blind eye towards the corruption cases levied on the political leadership, embezzlement in the development funds and the prevalent corruption in the government circles.
They have a grave concern about the never ceasing tussle for power between politicians, establishment and the bureaucracy that is drifting us into an endless mayhem.
The antitrust with the rulers is so prevalent that countries like China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are preferring to distribute aid in kind through the Pakistan army believing in this channel to be trustworthy than any other government agency.
The private charity organizations across the world are distributing the aid through the voluntary organizations of Pakistan.
It is the result of global frustration and mistrust that is bluntly cautioning us to mend our ways.
This predicament is further worsened by the insensitivity and triviality in the government circles.
The ruling elite and the opposition continue to prioritize their own personal matters rather than the national interests.
Their rapacity has taken over the front seat in running the state affairs giving birth to a juggernaut of corruption that is eating up our society at all levels.
Is there any remedy in sight? Fortunately, there are a plethora of options. What we need to grasp is that this nation is blessed with tremendous capabilities and resources that, if implemented wisely, can rid us of all of our plights.
First we have to put our own house in order. The ruling elite should uncoil its preferences. Our priority should be the nation and the poor masses who matter the most.
Second, confrontational politics has to cease. The opposing politicians have to put their swords back into their sheaths.
They must know that those who live by the swords ultimately perish by the swords. Third, the government has to adopt moderation in all the fields of governance – be it the size of the government or the spending of various funds at its disposal.
A massive cabinet of almost seventy-five, lavish spending on international trips and unchecked slippages in the development funds has got to be struck down.
Fourth, a culture of efficiency and honesty needs to be nurtured among all the decision-makers and players.
Fifth, turning around the economy is not rocket science. Contrary to the wrong perception given by many that nobody or nothing can correct the course of our economy, there are plenty of well known and tested economic solutions that can turn around the economy and finances of the country.
Sixth, all the institutions of the country need to operate within their own boundaries and limits.
And finally, international relations need to be revisited. The country can not bear the brunt of alienating old friends and especially antagonizing the superpowers needlessly. Well can we do it? Yes we can.
All we need is to induce ourselves with the will power, determination and the right direction.
—The writer is an engineer and contributing columnist with keen eye on current affairs, economics and technical issues related to power sector.