Pakistan: Tales of despair, tales of hope
At that point, CPEC emerged as a god-sent brilliant initiative through which Pakistan’s long-term friend and ally, China, planned to inject over 60 billion dollars into the country under the umbrella of several different developmental projects. To foster this, motorways and power plants had already been built. The plan was to follow this with special economic zones. Big Chinese powerhouses planned to shift their low-cost manufacturing facilities to Pakistan. It felt rosy and like the perfect deal until CPEC too was put on a “go-slow mode” due to political adventures and vested interests at the cost of Pakistan and its growth, an addition to Pakistan’s favourite list, the list I call ‘the list of blows’.
Pakistan is a dynamic country. A country with one of the fastest-growing populations in the world and a country with a young population full of potential. The country, among many other things, is gifted with all kinds of weather conditions and landscapes. A country rich in culture and heritage but a country not in sight of the world. Tourism is an industry that encapsulates major economic incentives and requires focus on a governmental level. Year after year, term after term, governments have come and gone, making big claims and even bigger promises to make Pakistan a haven for tourists – with little to no action and ultimately minuscule results. With the world’s largest mountain ranges all at the tip of Pakistan, the country is truly a gift from god. Pakistan needs to do something to conserve the blessings bestowed upon it. One of the many blessings is water coming from monsoon rains and melting glaciers. The country barely has any means of preserving this water – our crop yield, therefore, lags behind. Just across the border, with a similar climate, India gives a substantially higher crop yield.
With changing weather conditions, yearly floods, and other economic problems, if we do not conserve our water and do not focus on amplifying our crop yield, a massive food shortage will soon become a reality. At this point, it is important to realize that exports are this country’s lifeline. When looking at countries like China and India and trying to narrow down their growth trajectory, it seems evident across the board that the two countries and the likes of them what are today referred to as ‘economic giants’ all focused on exports. The need for exporters to become competitive is dire on a national level as there is no denying the fact that real progress starts only and only when the national reserves of a country are large enough for it to not have the need to borrow from institutions like the IMF that make nations bend backward with conditions and requirements so strict that it is difficult to have a high GDP growth.
Pakistan has much to offer but lacks the right sort of environment to cultivate wealth creation. The domestic investor is scared of institutions like NAB, FIA, FBR, and others. These agencies have the ability to freeze accounts and go as far as snatching money under tax evasion and corruption scandals. Business owners under fear of unnecessary questioning and investigation, therefore, do not prefer keeping spare money in bank accounts but rather in foreign accounts or investing in real estate. Under this environment, it is no surprise that an increasing number of stakeholders and investors are shifting their residences out of Pakistan. The new generation pulls all kinds of strings to settle abroad causing a major brain drain to this very amazing country.
Growing up, young Pakistanis like myself have countless times heard how Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is what paved the way for what is today the best airline in the world, Emirates. We have also heard almost fiction-sounding stories about how South Korea followed our model of the planning commission. We have heard it all and we seem to know recipe for success and we still find ourselves in an economic distraught in the year 2023. Why? Writing this at the cost of repeating myself but the people of this country have time and again taken the nation hostage to their own petty interests. When Haroon Akhtar in his article said “we are enemies of continuity” he was not wrong. From the milkman to the top officials of this country, everyone seems to have forgotten the premise on which this country was built.
With everything said and done and with everything that Pakistan is, it is also an undeniably resilient nation. All we need to do is, sit back and weigh our choices. Whether we want to continue going down the unfortunate collapse that is in sight or whether we want to actively make choices that are favourable towards the growth and thereby future of this country. A world of opportunities sits right in front of us – all we need is a change of spectacles.—Concluded.
—The writer is contributing for national press, based in Islamabad.