Good fortune and Pakistan are rarely coupled. Yet, Pakistans economy seems to have muddled through a critical phase in global economy, while economies mightier than ours collapsed. Despite poor governance, corruption and an extremely negative international perception, we have a few things to cheer about: Exports went up on the back of high cotton prices and demand (though we should have done much better), reserves have held up, rupees further erosion has so far been arrested, agriculture and rural Pakistan have done well over the last two years and most notably, our overseas Pakistanis have retained confidence in their ancestral homeland. These strokes of good fortune are due to any of governments coordinated effort; they have largely come about either on account of international events (political and economic) that touched Pakistans economy on a positive note or because of the sheer resilience of the Pakistani private sector that keeps on finding ways to resurface and perform, though the dice is heavily loaded against it. Ironically, instead of giving credit where it is due, our leaders are desperately trying to add feathers to their caps for these successes, and that too amidst latest global economic developments (of which they appear to be clueless) that point to an altogether fresh set of challenges ominously staring us in the face: i) agricultural commodity boom is over; ii) Pakistani exports will nosedive, whereas imports are likely to increase due to high oil prices; iii) Rising remittances are bound to come down in the coming months owing to troubled Arab economies and depressed Western markets (where most of expatriate Pakistanis have found their new homes); iv) absence of prudent economic management is driving domestic businesses to closure, causing unemployment, poverty and social unrest might arise. I am not too sure how our government plans to approach these concerns in the upcoming budget; little effort meaningful debates and consultations with the real stakeholders and drivers of economy is visible; it has just indulged in (by now) the all-too-familiar rhetoric on the need for enhanced revenue collection and borrowings from either the IMF or State Banks teller. Without going into the details of numerous other areas that any good economic leadership should be tapping to provide the economic scene a long-term perspective, I will confine myself to suggesting a strategy that more and more countries are beginning to use these days in order to provide a healthy balance to their national economic activity setting some very clear 'current account targets. This basically means that there should be a team of economic experts to assesses our entire potential on both sides of the equation (exports and imports), and then go on to professionally, i). set limits which optimise potential yet do not put a spoke in the wheel; ii). provide a strategy to go about achieving this; and finally, iii). provide the government with clear targets vis--vis current account deficit/surplus. The responsibility can be assumed by either the Ministry of Finance (as being done by quite a few countries) or a separate independent body constituted to overlook this. This is not a new concept by any stretch of imagination, but in effect goes back to the preoccupations of John Maynard Keynes at the Bretton Woods Conference of July 1944, representing Britain, where he was obsessed with the dangers of asymmetric adjustment between surplus and deficit. Of course, he was talking of this concept on a much larger scale and platform where the discussions were more to do with global imbalances, developed versus underdeveloped, in-between the past, present and emerging global economic powers, inter-bloc imbalances, etc, but more recently, Tim Geithner, US Treasury Secretary, by floating a proposal that targets and endeavours to restrict (after a point) the US-China current account deficit has shown a new way to a lot of countries, who after a long time (probably, the first time since the agreement of GATT) are having a serious think about their current account balances or rather imbalances. More importantly, they are for the first time setting themselves their own workable targets While the US has an agenda of its own (the luxury only of a superpower) where it aims to establish the principle that both surplus and deficit countries have an obligation to adjust and, therefore, there should be an agreed numerical value for the surplus or deficit at which a country should act voluntarily (without fear of ceiling or sanctions), other troubled but significant economies like Britain, France, Greece, Iceland, Poland, etc are, on the other hand, looking inwards by trying to put themselves in a trade straightjacket, i.e. without someone having to force one on them - on the pattern of an export-import barter in the medieval times, albeit with more flexibility. One can argue that it is somewhat late for certain countries mentioned above, but then it is never too late to reform or is it? Finally, we must remember that setting current account targets is only a starting point (especially in budget exercises) and whether this approach can be made to work depends on the will of the government to remain financially disciplined. Further, it is important that a trade straightjacket does not merely that only deficits need to be watched, but as China is signalling, in fact, doing seriously thinking on its expanding surplus because it considers it unhealthy from a long-term perspective: a rapidly expanding surplus can also imply that (a) the Chinese public is not reaping the fruits of domestic prosperity as it should be, and (b) perhaps China is selling itself cheaper than necessary. Also, a lot of economists believe that huge accumulations of currency reserves is not a market phenomenon: It has more to do with a government decision that may be justifiable initially as a way of creating insurance against shocks, but becomes unhealthy and unproductive beyond a certain level. Anyway, suppose this (the surplus side) is not a worry that should concern us for the time being and we need to focus on the reality that given our consistent run of annual imbalances, we need help in making an economic plan that can guide us and our economic managers on how to work within limits. n The writer is an entrepreneur and an economic analyst.. Email: