Positive economic indicators


Malik Ashraf

NEEDLESS to emphasize that managing an economy, particularly of the third world countries like Pakistan that suffer from resource constraints and struggle to strike a balance between development and welfare-oriented measures, is an arduous and excruciating exercise, more so in view of the vulnerabilities to the ever changing global economic environment. Considering these factors and the state of economy inherited by the PTI government, it is hard to deny that the overall handling of the economy has been quite encouraging.
Almost all the economic indicators which are considered of crucial importance in propelling the economy towards a process of revival and sustained economic growth, are showing positive signs after a difficult period when the government had to take some harsh but realistic decisions to rectify some of the economic aberrations and set in train the much needed economic reforms keeping in view the long term interests of the country, though it caused difficulties for the masses in the short run.
In the first four months of the current financial year Pakistan Stock Exchange witnessed an increase of 30.4% which was the highest as compared to even some of the developed countries. In the same period stock exchanges of Germany, Sweden, Russia and Ireland registered an increase to the tune of 13.9 %, 14 %, 16.2 % and 19.1 % respectively. Foreign exchange reserves increased by $1117 million, foreign investment in the first quarter witnessed 238% raise and the current account deficit experienced 73.5% reduction during the month of October. The positive developments in the foregoing indicators also enabled the government to enhance the debt payments by 25% in the first quarter. They are strong portents in regards to revival of the economy. They might act as a springboard to take the economy on the path to sustained economic development and improvement in the rate of GDP growth.
Some people raise doubts about the sustainability of steps taken by the government citing increase in the internal and external debt and feel it could ultimately have debilitating impact on the economy. As regards taking of loans by the government one should not lose sight of the fact that it was an indispensable imperative in view of retiring the already taken whopping debts and rectifying the alarming current account and budgetary deficit. The loans were also necessary to meet other pressing needs as well as avoiding a situation of debt default and keeping the development projects going which were already in the pipeline.
While the apprehensions of the critics cannot be dismissed lightly it is pertinent to point out that their argument represents only one side of the equation which is normally based on the assumption that the loans obtained will not be employed on the productive avenues. The fact is that almost all the countries of the world take loans to finance their development and welfare projects and these loans if used prudently on productive avenues not only generate enough resources to pay for themselves but also add considerably to the resource availability of that country. They probably also do not take into account the contribution of the development projects to the overall health of the economy after their completion, particularly the ones under CPEC.
Riding on the successes achieved in the economic sector so far and with unruffled focus and commitment it should not be difficult for the government to trigger fast-track economic growth in the country and ultimately be in a position to give more attention to providing adequate relief to the masses and changing their economic situation. One thing commendable about the achievements of the government is that it made these things happen notwithstanding the confrontational political environment in the country.
It is an unfortunate reality of our politics that the opposition parties have not played their role as required of them in a political dispensation. In democracy the party in power and those in the opposition are considered two sides of the same coin. The opposition is a government in the waiting. Both the ruling party and opposition in spite of their different political agendas work for promoting the well-being of the masses and serving the national interests. But in Pakistan they have invariably focused more on pulling down the incumbent government through unconstitutional means which has often consigned this country to recurrent political crisis. The recent movement spearheaded by Maulana Fazlur Rahman and supported by the major parties is beyond comprehension as there is no legitimate reason to seek fresh elections and asking for the resignation of the Prime Minister. If the opposition parties feel that the government in their estimation is not pursuing the right course they should leave it to the people to be the final arbiters as required under a democratic system. People have given the PTI the mandate to manage the affairs of the state for five years and should be allowed to complete its tenure without any disruption.
The opposition often complains that the government has made Parliament irrelevant. I am afraid that to a great extent they are themselves responsible for this situation. Instead of cooperating with the government to bring required legislation for systemic changes to ensure good governance they are invariably found creating rumpus in Parliament forcing the government to resort to the promulgation of Presidential Ordinances, which is not an enviable proposition. The government and opposition need to have a working relationship and focus their energies on promoting national interests and warding off the challenges confronting the nation.
The country perhaps needs a new social contract and a charter of economy enjoying the backing of all the stakeholders to steer the country out of the perennial political instability. Economic development needs political stabili
ty. The government and the opposition must not lose sight of this imperative.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.