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Naya Pakistan & its economic baggage – Maleeha Hashmi

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Maleeha Hashmi |

Life is a book full of surprises. No one knows as to what turns and twists every new chapter brings. The most talked about cricketer turned politician, Imran Khan, who kicked off his political ride back in 1996, had no idea as to what kind of gigantic challenges awaited him. Neither did his “born to rule” political opponents have the slightest idea of his resilience, steadfastness and commitment to the cause. Who would have thought that this honorary World Cup Shield was not the ‘only’ thing that this young chap would be taking home one day.

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Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, once known to be the least popular political party, headed by Imran Khan, who was often mocked and advised by the notoriously immovable political pillars of the land of pure, to stay away from politics as it was not his cup of tea, single-handedly wiped them all out in General election 2018, while bagging the maximum number of seats in the National Assembly.

The kind of unprecedented response PTI, despite being a non-dynastic political force, has been lucky enough to yield from all the four provinces, especially the first time ever “two-third majority” in Khyber Pakhtunkhua, and Capital Territory of Pakistan, not only speaks volumes about how well PTI led KP Government has performed in the last five years but also indicates the unbelievably high expectations, that people from all socio-economic segments residing in every nook and corner of Pakistan are hopefully holding from them at the moment.

The first hundred days can’t radically fix everything but it sure can carve out the right direction putting every state institution on the right track as this is the only way we can lure private sector to have partnership with us on multiple avenues, which can turn the tables around for our economy.

As easy as it may have sounded in his speeches from the past, stabilizing Pakistan’s speedily sinking economic ship owing to ailing infrastructure, politicized leadership, poorly devised and executed economic policies, is going to be the mother of all challenges he has ever dealt with. It is no secret that severe financial crunch over the past few years, has unfortunately brought the masses’ tolerance level extremely low and about to be PTI-led Federal Government is going to be critically monitored since day one and I forecast a massive comparative analysis to be run between PTI’s first 100 day performance with PPP & PMLN 45 year prolonged duopoly.

The kind of generous margin that all the conventional political parties have been able to unduly leverage all these decades, that PTI has been protesting against since day one, will not be granted to PTI even for a day. Imran and his cabinet will have no other option but to fasten their seatbelts and get to work. According to the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Ranking, Pakistan has plummeted from 107 to 147 since 2013. Over the last five years, the investment ratio in Pakistan touched its 50 years lowest record.

The horrifying statistical illustration of where Pakistan stands today, having been prone to over four decade prolonged duopoly of PPP and PMLN, with a vast majority of the masses taking pride in chanting “SHERRR” & “Jiye Bhutto”, shook me to the core.  The most recent economic figures reveal that our exports declined to $ 61 Billion accompanied with $38 Billion Trade Deficit, 2.2 Trillion PKR budget deficit, 1.1 Trillion PKR Current Account Deficit and a record Foreign Debt of $8 Billion.

Read more: PTI pushes out stubborn bigwigs

Amidst all this realistic yet pessimistic economic situation of the country, PTI looks pretty confident and fully prepared to take up this massive challenge right from the beginning. Watching PTI strengthen its foothold in all the provinces of Pakistan, has certainly revitalized and rejuvenated the spirits of all competent civil servants stuck in the public offices with the weakest possible system that has been subservient to the will of individual Chief Executive Officer since forever.

They look hopeful to finally have such projects initiated which will help them realize their absolute potential. Mangla and Tarbela dams are the outcomes of the hard work of the competent civil servants who were fortunate enough to be blessed with a strong system that enabled them to put their skillset and competence to good use. Since then, we haven’t had any such mega project planned or executed, majorly on account of severe lack of political will. It has only been four days since the election results came out and people are already looking forward to having financially honest, competent and unbiased individuals heading our key state owned enterprises. The expectations regarding the provision of education and health facilities are sky-high.

A strong sense of optimism has surged among the dedicated journalists of Pakistan, majority of whom have suffered greatly in the recent past, also hope that PTI will appreciate constructive criticism and no attempts will be made to make any television channel a political tool at the hands of the Government unlike PMLN. Imran Khan’s announcement regarding his aim to end political victimization and hold anyone guilty of the said offense, responsible, gave his political opponents’ beneficiaries, a sigh of relief. If it is implemented in true spirit, it will change the course of politics and bureaucracy in Pakistan once and for all.

 

Life is a book full of surprises. No one knows as to what turns and twists every new chapter brings. The most talked about cricketer turned politician, Imran Khan, who kicked off his political ride back in 1996, had no idea as to what kind of gigantic challenges awaited him.

IT experts and all the intelligent kids, who are sick of people asking them if they want to be doctor or engineer when they grow up, also have a good news knocking their doors. PTI has promised to build five new major technology clusters and 120 new campuses to produce 100,000 technology graduates every year. Implementation of technical and vocational education reform program for upskilling our labor force in demand-driven trades is also on the cards.

Agricultural emergency is going to be declared right from the beginning. Agricultural research is an area where the developed economies are 50 years ahead of Pakistan. PTI looks determined to equip millions of farmers in Punjab, with advanced agricultural hacks and facilitate their access to finance. Weak farmers who have been prone to the business tricks of middlemen, also look hopeful as there is going to be a special ‘Targeted Subsidy’ program for them, which will bring our weak farmers in the mainstream. 21% of Pakistan’s GDP is derived from agriculture, half of which is constituted by Livestock. Special attention has been promised to be given to this untapped ocean of opportunities.

Read more: Despite concerns, China sees a potential ally in Pakistan’s Imran Khan

With great mandate, comes great responsibility. As tough as it all may sound, I believe that if PTI lives up to its word and strives to serve the masses, replicating its formula of success targeting improved Human Resource Development while widening the tax net by implementing progressive taxation system and fulfilling its promise of facilitating the construction of 5 million low cost housing units along with the provision of 10 million jobs to the vibrant youth of Pakistan, which constitutes almost 63% of our total population, it will oushine all of the previous Federal and Provincial Governments, hands down.

The real need of the hour is to strengthen the state institutions while inculcating the culture of transparency and accountability as, in my humble opinion, 70% of the problems that we face today are not because of dearth of resources or finances but the massive trust deficit that all stakeholders, majorly including ‘investors’, hold with respect to the state owned enterprises. Once this gap is successfully bridged and the much-needed confidence is regained in the economy, the whole world will see how Pakistan turns into an investor-friendly business hub, inviting massive investments, strengthening international trade, while stepping out of the FATF Grey list for good and making it to the top 100 countries in World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Ranking, in the next five years.

The first hundred days can’t magically fix everything but it is definitely going to be the time within which, if misplaced prioririties are reconfigured and investment focus is readjusted, putting every state institution on the right track, we can lure private investors to have faith in the system and foster public-private partnerships on multiple avenues, which can turn the tables around for our economy. CPEC’s transition from infrastructure development to implementation phase will be another game changer. Let’s hope millions of our Pakistani expats who moved their businesses abroad or switched to lucrative jobs abroad with a heavy heart, come back with elevated spirits, reinvest and cherish their lives with their loved ones in the land of pure. Pakistan Zindabad!

Maleeha Hashmi is a Management Consultant with Telecom Industry with focus on Human Resource Development. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space. 

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