Pakistan’s Charter of Economy

The political situation in Pakistan has rarely stabilised since its independence. The uncertain and fragile political scenario also adversely affects the economic stability of the country. Till the late 1980s, the economic and business stability of Pakistan had been quite unaffected, but its situation has never been the same since the 1990s, with various political regimes switching frequently, coming with policies which were inconsistent and unproductive. Resultantly, the common man suffers badly; his very survival becomes extremely difficult and the poverty rate in the country unabatedly gets worse. Along with the dramatic twists and turns of political turmoil, fellow citizens have also embraced natural disasters, including earthquakes, flash floods, torrential rains, droughts, heatwaves, and the most recent pandemic—Covid-19. In the last two decades, the worst law and order situation and terrorist attacks had given many shocks to the economy, which ends up in the ICU time and again, after a few years of brief growth and expansion, which is commonly known as a boom-and-bust cycle of economic growth.
These factors portray a grim situation for every aspect of the country, from the struggle of bread and butter of the common man to annual GDP growth rate. To make the situation worse, the future is highly uncertain with no clear roadmap for the next generation—poverty is rampant on a wide scale and living standards for the larger part of our population are declining. This is one side of the story, which is indeed a sad one. The other side of the story is optimistic, almost like music to one’s ear. Pakistan is located at a very important geo-strategic location on the globe; it is a unique country with every season of the weather, it is rich in natural resources, and the potential for agriculture is huge. It stands among the top-ten countries in the world producing various edible crops, livestock, goods, etc. Also, its human capital of around 60 percent is young. However, despite having immense potential, we are not capable as a nation to reap the benefits of these blessings, unfortunately. Perhaps, our unpredictable political scenario casts its shadow over our country’s progress and potential for growth.
The Charter of Economy has been a buzzword recently. The top leadership of various political parties endorsed the idea in the larger interest of the country, yet the concept is far from a clear vision and a practical approach. The Charter on Economy should delink political issues from economic affairs as much as possible. It should be signed by all political parties for a minimum period of 10 years. It could be like Vision 2030, which was set by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. It should address the broader issues of the economy. The strategies and execution should be on a long-term basis with the agreement of all parties on reforms of state institutions and investment policies.
At a recently held Dialogue, titled “National Economy Dialogue—The Way Forward Pakistan”—organised by Nutshell Conferences Group, the present Finance Minister Dr Miftah Ismail, and the immediate former Finance Minister Senator Shaukat Tarin, mutually agreed on a “Charter of Economy” among political parties, which could truly drag out the country from the quagmire of a financial crisis. The event was also attended by the top corporate representatives of Pakistan.
Various valuable suggestions were put forth by the Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue and the other distinguished participants; these suggestions include the agricultural revolution, import substitution, growth in the manufacturing and export-based sectors, value-addition in exports, focus on increasing the non-traditional sector for exports, promotion of IT exports, enhancement of tax-to-GDP ratio from 11 to 20 percent, phase-wise increase in tax-to-saving and tax-to-investment ratios, etc.
Food and energy security should be achieved on a priority basis. In this, financing for the agriculture sector and farm mechanisation should be promoted. As far as energy is concerned, alternate energy and the use of coal should be encouraged for the production of low-cost electricity and import savings. The national human resource should be equipped with skills through training and various educational programs in line with the demands of local manufacturing, trading, and services sectors. The use of technology should be promoted in the operations for bringing transparency and increased productivity. Documentation of the economy should be done, and maximum financial inclusion should be achieved. All the above suggestions are valid and workable, but the key to success will be timely decision-making and implementation. In the past, various nations endured prolonged wars, famine, and collateral damage, yet they built themselves as great nations with courage, zeal, and unity; take the example of Germany and Japan, which were engaged in a destructive World War II, but later emerged as strong economies of the world. Hopefully, the political and corporate leadership in Pakistan will think through the proposal of the Charter of Economy and join hands for the larger cause of progress and prosperity of their motherland.

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