Challenges Abound for the Coalition Government in Waiting

The economic situation of the country is alarming indeed.

Challenges for the upcoming coali­tion government headed by Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif would unambiguously formidable. The predic­aments are gargantuan, and ad­dressing these predicaments would, beyond any shadow of doubt, require judicious and deft handling. Does the new government due to step into office in the coming week or so possess the requisite experi­ence and competence to strike a bal­ance in its approach towards all the is­sues that it would confront? Would it be able to manage these challenges effec­tively? The answer would be in the affir­mative. Because, those who would be at the helm of governance in the referenced government, unlike its predecessor, pos­sess vast experience of managing the af­fairs of this country in the past. Howev­er, having said that, one would actually be able to gauge the real success that the government ultimately achieves, only af­ter it embarks on its journey towards im­plementation of its developmental agen­da and the commitments it has made to the people in its manifesto.

That Pakistan’s economy is immense­ly overburdened by both foreign and do­mestic debt is an open secret. According to the State Bank of Pakistan, country’s total external debt stood at US $131159 in the fourth quarter of 2023. The do­mestic debt of Pakistan has been equal­ly unbridled. As reported in the media, excluding liabilities, the total debt of the country in FY23 stood at US$72.991tr. The scenario vis-à-vis the current for­eign exchange reserves of the country is not encouraging either. According to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Liq­uid Foreign Exchange Reserves (LFR) stood at US$13.26 billion as on February 24, 2024 -- net reserves of US$ 7,949.6 5 with the State Bank of Pakistan, and net reserves of US$ 5,088.9 with the banks.

The economic situation of the country is alarming indeed! In view of the fore­going mindboggling financial situation, the government would have no choice but to focus its undivided attention on dealing with the ever-burgeoning eco­nomic conundrum of the country on war-footing. In fact, the economy must mandatorily be on top of its agenda of national priorities.

In the realm of economy, the first and foremost task of the upcoming gov­ernment would be to deal with the In­ternational Monetary Fund (IMF). Cash-strapped Pakistan, though very unfortunate, badly needs IMF support to overcome it dire financial straits. It would have to immediately get down to negotiations with the IMF, and make all out endeavors to get its next tranche of US$ 700 million released. As reported in the media, the board of the Washington-based International Monetary Fund is all set to deliberate and potentially grant fi­nal approval for the disbursement of the next US$ 700 million tranche for Pak­istan, under the existing US$ 3 billion Stand-By Arrangement (SBA).

Yet another profoundly critical eco­nomic issue that the coalition govern­ment will have to judiciously and in­dustriously deal with is the galloping inflation in the economy. The people of Pakistan have never been so noxious­ly hit by inflation before. In fact, this is the worst inflation they have ever seen in over seven and a half decades-old history of the country. In its January 2024 meeting, the State Bank of Paki­stan had forecast the average inflation in the economy to be 23%-25%. The ex­isting inflation has devastatingly affect­ed the middle and low-income classes of the population. It has completely eroded their purchasing power.

The economic plight of the people Pak­istan is further worsened by the men­ace of poverty. Dealing with this menace is yet another serious challenge that the government would confront in the years to come. Poverty alleviation is a critical issue as roughly 24% of the population of Pakistan is said to be still living un­der profoundly precarious conditions. It would be imperative for the government to pull the masses out of poverty if it is to ensure economic and social well-being of the country. Poverty could be eradicated either directly through creating employ­ment opportunities or indirectly through provision of basic health and education facilities to the people. Unquestionably, this vital area also merits serious and ur­gent attention of the government.

Another significant area that the gov­ernment would need to aptly work on, is rebuilding country’s tarnished im­age in the comity of respected world na­tions and making sustained efforts to strengthen its external relations. That Pakistan’s image stands awfully tar­nished in the world today is a sad truth. How and why we have attained this un­fortunate repute does not need any elab­oration. It should suffice to say that all this has happened due to the wrongdo­ings and ill-intent of a particular seg­ment of our society. We, as a nation, have bitterly failed to appreciate the value of independence. Even after 76 years of in­dependence, we have not be able to ap­preciate the fact that whatever we have attained in our lives today is because of Pakistan. The day we realize this hard truth, we would resolve all our differenc­es amicably and work collectively and concertedly to bring unparalleled prog­ress and prosperity to Pakistan.

The government would also have to strengthen its relations with Pakistan’s media – ‘the fourth pillar of the State.’ The importance of media in this age of media revolution cannot be overempha­sized. Media is a ‘watch dog’ of political democracy. It should be provided free­dom and opportunity to play its role of a ‘watch dog’ effectively. However, one would also expect from the media to act reasonably and responsibly. With due apology, these days the media, barring a few exceptions, endeavors to promote news that would bring success to their respective channels and enhance its im­age among its viewers. Needless to say, the media should be objective and not subjective in its news reporting. Their reporting on any issue relating to the government or otherwise should always be backed by tangible evidence. Its criti­cism should be constructive. It should be done with the expressed intent of high­lighting a wrong that has been com­mitted or a lapse that has occurred, de­liberately or inadvertently, which may potentially harm the integrity of this country and the interests of its people.

To sum up, success of the coalition government in all spheres of governance would largely depend on setting its pri­orities right, and, once set, adroitly and methodically working towards the im­plementation of these priorities. In ad­dition, its success would also depend on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his cohorts’ ingenuity in managing cordial working relationship with the coalition partners, and mutually respectable re­lationship with the members of the op­position in the Parliament. Though es­tablishment of good relations with the latter would, for obvious reasons, be a little too difficult still sincere and con­tinued efforts should be made to take them along particularly in matters of su­preme national interest.

M Fazal Elahi
The writer is a columnist and analyst based in Islamabad and can be contacted at

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