Unprecedented rains/ floods have wreaked havoc across Pakistan causing losses worth billions to the national exchequer. The onslaught has periled existing resource potential, already exposed to continued political uncertainty and beleaguered economy. Nonetheless, in the hindsight, the precarious situation equally presents us a unique opportunity to rise from the adversarial situation.
This contextualizes the discourse on the broader outlook of future roadmap as we appreciate the situation post deluge to resolve for building back a better Pakistan. Before we ascertain viability of such as approach, casting an eye through success stories in recent past is imperative. As we scan the contemporary developmental models, we observe that exceptional national resolve and determined leadership as common attributes have helped the nations to surmount formidable challenges.
Talk about key lessons as we analyze development stories of Japan, South Korea and Singapore, to speak a few. Comprehensive economic reforms agenda promoting indigenous production and liberal fiscal policies helped Japan to achieve a sustainable growth.
From smoking heaps of rubbles in summer of 1945, Japan achieved an impressive global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) share of 4.56 percent in 2022, speaks volumes on how Fukoku Ky?hei (Japanese: enrich the country) transformed Tokyo’s economy.
Timely realization about ‘Sputnik Moment’ brought massive industrialization and attracted FDI, which became key drivers of accelerated development in South Korea. How Seoul became 12th largest economy in the world and home to renowned multinational corporations, exemplifies the country’s timely realization of the ‘sputnik moment.’
Durability and stability of ruling regime with a visionary leadership helped Singapore to wriggle out the crisis situation. Enterprising Kuan Yew regime enabled the nation to break shackles of massive unemployment and poverty.
Seeing Pakistan’s chequered history, we are reminded of at least four critical moments when extreme national resolve enabled us to negotiate mammoth challenges threatening its survival.
With meager resources post-independence, country’s economic meltdown was accentuated after its two wars with India. 1971 debacle when after losing east wing, Pakistan’s economy was in tatters.
Subsequently, US sanctions under Pressler Amendment in 1990s came down heavily for the want of US hegemonic designs. Lastly, economic and human loss as part of global war on terrorism and unprecedented energy crisis in early 2010s embroiled Pakistan in facing the economic headwinds.
Pakistan now stands at crossroads given that its two-third submerged with stagnant water and weak economic health, exacerbated by persistent political bickering. How the aforementioned situation can have adverse effects, can be gauged by a pointed elucidation on present economic indicators.
Pakistan’s total external debt and liabilities have surged to 130.2 billion US dollars (40 percent of its GDP) and debt servicing jumped to $15 billion during the financial year 2022 – so much to hamper national growth, development across social spectrum and disaster management effort.
Likewise, IMF forecast is worrying which highlights that Pakistan’s external financing needs are around 3 billion US dollars for current financial year, projected to increase to 39.1 billion US dollars by financial year 2027.
Moody downgrading credit rating (to CAA1 from B3) of economy and risk rating (of five banks to Caa1 from B3) implies that Pakistan is on substantial risk against the trust of lending agencies on loans to Pak and other investment ventures.
This precarious situation underpins gathering of storms on rehabilitation efforts and economic recovery, reverberating worst fears in the immediate future.
However, like everywhere, there is always a light at the end of tunnel as we plan to rehabilitate floods’ stricken masses and put the economy back on tracks. This approach to rebuilding Pakistan can largely be categorized into two realms: post floods rehabilitation process and long term economic reforms agenda.
Navigating floods specific challenges, present situation calls for a multipronged effort. First, Pakistan can maximize its efforts on debt swap against pledged amount and all future assistance. Second, exploring prospects as part of Green Marshal Plan, the country can align its national effort to build a greener Pakistan. Third, crafting ‘National Charter of Economy’ to achieve sustainable development is of paramount importance. It is the time to disassociate political lineages for our national survival, at the heart of which lies the economic revival and sustainable development. Fourth, socio-economic development of less developed areas (mainly of Balochistan and Sindh) may be given due importance as the country articulates functionalities of NGOs/ INGOs working in ravaged areas hinterland.
Now about the long-term measures to revive the economy in the larger context. First and foremost is that the government needs to vigorously peruse long-term economic reforms agenda. Pakistan Public- Private Partnership (PPP) is prime manifestation how the joint venture can help the economy thrive.
Asian Development Bank’s PPP Monitor in 2021 has observed that Pakistan possess a strong potential for PPP at federal and provincial levels. However, fragmented approach on country’s regulatory framework is hampering the progress. Therefore, our renowned emphasis on ease of doping business and business friendly environment can pay rich dividends.
Liberal fiscal and monetary policies can better be implemented to allow the economy a progressive growth. Liberal exchange rate – albeit controlled against speculations – broadening tax base and depoliticizing Government’s determination of patrol rates can help to control growing menace of current account deficit and spiralling inflation.
As highlighted above, industrialization is the only answer to curbing the menace of unemployment, promotion of skilled workforce and revenue generation. Pakistan can explore avenue across business councils of Middle East, European Union and China.
Developing the human capital is much needed like the financial capital. Pakistan’s ranking of 161 (out of 192 countries) on UNDP’s Human Development Index 2022 is a matter of great concern. Therefore, social uplift in the country calls for massive investment on development of human capital by restructure governance and management system of education and health services.
Introducing governance reforms can facilitate economy to trade the desired path. Privatization of state owned enterprises (with staggering losses), creating enabling environment for FDI and empowering district management, are few cardinals for an improved governance in Pakistan.
To conclude, resilience and unity of nation is the reason Pakistan continues to endure/ survive myriad of economic and political challenges. Sustainable development remains a far cry, given a unified national response is thrown to the winds for the want of inwards politics and short-sighted policies.
Insurmountable it might appear, the present situation offers an opportune moment to rebuild a better, progressive and greener Pakistan.
–The writer is an MS
Scholar at SZABIST,
Islamabad. He can be reached at email@example.com.