PAKISTAN is facing unprecedented economic crisis vis-à-vis trade deficit, current account deficit and fiscal deficit due to the flawed policies of the previous governments. The present government, therefore, is forced to increase utilities’ tariff to bridge the gap of fiscal deficit to some extent. But the people want relief instead of increase in utilities tariff. According to a recent Asian Development Bank (ADB) report, “Pakistan will continue to face macroeconomic challenges despite steps to tighten fiscal and monetary policies to rein in high and unsustainable twin deficits, and in this backdrop, the country’s GDP is forecast to decelerate to 3.9 per cent in fiscal year 2019”. But Pakistan has the resilience, resources and the will to defy those predictions; and of course there is good news i.e. the consortium of four leading companies led by US-based ExxonMobil has discovered massive oil and gas reserves offshore Indus G-Block called Kekra-I some 230-km off the Karachi coast.
For this purpose, ExxonMobil has brought one major drilling ship, three supply vessels and two helicopters on the site. Italian firm Eni Pakistan is the operator of the block, while Exploration and Production Pakistan BV (EEPP) is drilling the well. Besides, Pakistan state-owned Oil and Gas Development Company (OGDC) and Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) are part of the joint venture. Each of the four firms has a 25% participating interest in the block. The oil and gas imports cost Pakistan around one-fourth of the total import bill per year. The country has emerged as one of the largest gas (liquefied natural gas) importers in the world during the last couple of years. Already, Saudi Arabia has agreed to invest $20 bn and among other projects decided to put up oil refinery at Gawadar, which will help create job opportunities and also save foreign exchange.
The fact remains that the destiny of a nation depends on the determination of its people, but there has to be a leader with vision, courage and wisdom to inspire them to unite in their struggle for safeguarding the sovereignty and independence of their country, and to put it on the path of progress and prosperity. Since the leaderships of major political parties revolve around the founder or his family members, Pakistan could not get second and third tiers of leadership. As a matter of fact ruling classes comprising jagirdars, bureaucracy and comprador industrialists ruled the country under different denominations since inception of Pakistan. According to Hegel, to be successful, a leader has to be conversant with – rather in harmony with – the spirit of the age. Quaid-e- Azam came when Muslims of the subcontinent wanted freedom from brute Hindu majority.
Z A Bhutto was another leader, who going with the spirit of the age, did his bit to give a fair deal to the working class; but he became controversial because of nationalisation of industry, which hindered the development and progress made in the 1960s. A real leader is a master strategist and a great tactician, who blends pragmatism with idealism to achieve the desired objective of a better life for its people including their safety and security. The decision of taking electable in the party’s fold was emblematic of Imran Khan’s pragmatism; and his vow to fight the scourge of corruption an expression of idealism. Of course, he is handicapped in legislating work because PTI does not have numbers in the National Assembly and especially in the Senate. He therefore has to depend on allies who sometimes try to blackmail him for having share in power more than it is due.
Indeed, the government faces a daunting task of revival of economy, as the previous government in its last two years had unprecedented trade deficit, current account deficit and fiscal deficit. In 2016-17, there was trade deficit of around $27 billion, and after taking into consideration remittances of $19 bn from expatriate Pakistanis, the current account deficit was $8 bn. In 2017-18, trade deficit was $31.2 bn and after taking into account expatriates’ remittances of $20 bn, the current account deficit was more than $11 bn. In retrospect, the actual fiscal deficit ended up at 5.5% in 2013-14, 5.3% in 2014-15 and 4.6% in 2015-16. A similar trend was witnessed in the FY 2016-17 when the country’s deficit went up to 5.8% against the target of 3.8%. Therefore, first of all PTI government had to arrange funds to avoid default, which he did successfully with the support of Saudi Arabia, UAE and China.
Some media men and politicos have become impatient and are spreading despondency and disappointment. The redeeming feature is that foreigners express confidence in Pakistan’s ability, resilience and potential. Andrew Korybko, who is a political analyst, journalist, and a member of the expert council for the Institute of Strategic Studies and Predictions at the People’s Friendship University of Russia, was all praise for Pakistan. The author referred to the CPEC and Belt and Road Initiative, which is important for China. He also highlighted the geo-strategic importance of Pakistan and wrote: “Pakistan’s promising economic potential, international connectivity capabilities, and unparalleled geostrategic location combine with its world-class military and proven diplomatic finesse over the decades to turn the South Asian country into the global pivot state of the 21st century. As astounding as it may sound to most observers, the global pivot state of the 21st century isn’t China, the US, nor Russia, but Pakistan”.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.