Reimagining Pakistan | By Rizwan Ghani


Reimagining Pakistan

Ex- prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has called for unity on economy from a non-partisan forum.

He reminded if country could defeat terrorism it can be done again. Nation needs debate to solve issues be-cause status quo is failing. He said they are ready to work with establishment and others within constitutional limits.

Ex-Finance Minister Miftah Ismail has written series of articles on economy offering failed western solutions and in his address could only come up with a solution of increase in minimum wage.

Apparently, Abbasi is adopting dialogue approach as soft face of PML after failure of dead end ap-proach of PTI criticizing military with its leader left with making offers without getting desired results.

PPP has gained in Punjab, Sindh and Karachi and the party is now pitching FM Bilawal as the next PM.

Maryam has to choose from the spectrum to unite the party, win back its share in national politics and find her place in national politics.

He talked about military’s role in country’s politics and its fallout. He mentioned about new social con-tract if needed.

I think it needs restoring trichotomy of power, scrapping 18th Amendment and stop taking one-sided interpretation of power of removing and appointing COAS as absolute.

Political interference should also stop in bureaucracy, judiciary and media. Give respect and earn respect. Gen Milley said he owes allegiance to US constitution not individuals.

He asked Congress to cut powers of president or face consequences. Jan 6 shows that politicians should be accountable under system of check and balance.

To stay in power, Modi has introduced 4-year tour of duty (Agnipath scheme) by outsourcing country’s defense to Quad (Europe, NATO).

US scramble to reassure Ukraine after Milley comments for negotiations with Russia (Politico).

It could have ended forever war and its global economic fallout. Whereas, there were calls for resignations in Pakistan after military heads differed on Iraq and Yemen.

In my IMF Deal 2023 in this space, I have used examples of America, UK and Europe to show how western economic systems have failed.

Under 1979 reforms of Thatcherism and Reaganomics, UK and US debt has increased to £2.4T (£250bn) and $31.4T ($850bn) respectively.

Pakistan’s economy mirrors their collapse resulting in more debt, debt servicing inflation, cost of living crisis, unemployment, poverty, rise in crime, police abuses, rapes, and lack of legal services.

The debt ridden western public is failure of jobless growth, infrastructure development, banking system, manufacturing, IT, privatization, subsidies, trade, exports, forex reserves, gold, fiat currencies, social safety networks.

Market has failed public on jobs, pensions, basic services of healthcare, education, and transport.

Public is being let down by democracy, media, legal systems, party donations, immunity of politicians, rule of law, constitution and state.

On economy, any political party addressing three challenges of food, shelter and jobs is going to win the elections and put Pakistan back on its feet.

It has to start with job and pension reforms. UK workers are strik-ing against private sector because despite 100 percent increase in profits it has failed to cut prices, link wages to inflation and pay their due share in pension insurance.

Government is dragging its feet due to its donors and alliance with industry as part of crony capitalism.

British media is demanding renationalization like Germany and Europe to create jobs. Energy companies £160bn profit, average bill going up five times forcing governments to pay subsidy to consumers.

It has questioned logic of privatization which was done to cut prices not profit at the cost of public and then use its tax money to give subsidy to private companies again just like Pakistan’s IPP circular debt.

Under good gov-ernance, governments cannot do privatization to escape political accountability for corruption, unemploy-ment (SoE) and poor wages.

Job based policies will employ public, bring food, and shelter. Government can use low skill jobs in community not SEZ as fastest way to create jobs in value addition sector of agri-produce, dairy, meat, poul-try.

Local manufacturing of 100 year old technologies including vehicles, cheap generic drugs, steel, railway coaches, locomotives and SME backed by securities of water, seed, fertilizer and chemicals.

Land reforms (Homestead law), dams, canals and efficient irrigation systems. Strikes being observed in the UK by several groups have shown that for profit education, healthcare and transport systems have failed.

Urban youth is not interested in contract and low paid jobs. Food stamps, sub-sidies and tax cuts are adding debt and hemorrhaging funds needed for public.

If government spread these services at grassroots with reasonable salary and pensionable jobs, the country will have enough doctors, engineers, teachers and other professionals to run local economies, generating income, savings and taxes.

Regarding shelter, government should use city development authorities’ not private developers to pro-vide cheap plots, safety, utilities and municipal services to residents and collect bills and taxes.

Loans should be given to help families for constructing new setups or improving their existing ones to cut living cost by 40 percent going into rent and help 40 percent children live with their parents like UK and US due to unem-ployment etc. Banking reforms must to serve public not profit (Glass-Steagall Act).

—The writer is senior political analyst based in Islamabad.