- No quick remedy for chronic economic illness
When economies become rundown due to poor governance and short and long-term prospects both appear bleak amid a dizzying array of adverse factors, the hoped for turnaround ought rightly to be measured in terms of decades rather than the 100-days blur. And involve tough, unpopular, even painful decisions, in the short run. Any new political setup swamped by depressing multiplicity of negative economic data, would more likely be paralysed into inactivity, not knowing where to begin. But due to the modern tendency in a fast-paced world of imposing impossible deadlines and setting grandiose goals just to create hype and make a (false) impression, the first 100 days have become fashionable for judging the performance of any new government.
The PTI recently proclaimed its 100-day agenda, which dutifully contains all the right vibes, especially in relation to the welfare state, with emphasis on the common man and his educational, health and employment needs, reviving industry and ruined state owned enterprises and resolving the daunting energy challenge, but these are all dilemmas achievable only over a couple of Five-Year Plans at least, and hence the agenda is merely a public statement of intent or a policy compass for the future.
Pakistan Business Council, comprising 68 largest private sector businesses including multinationals, a sort of institute for strategic studies regarding the country’s economic development, has come out with its own 16-point agenda for the guidance of the incoming government following the July 25 general election, at a time when almost all key indicators have hit rock bottom, the rupee has shed nearly 13 percent of its value against US dollar, forex reserves stagger at less than $10 billion, current account deficit is $15.96 billion, and federal government debt, Rs14.4 trillion in 2013, has catapulted to Rs23.8 trillion! The broad advice tendered involves job creation by enhancing manufacturing base, long-term export policies, decreasing energy cost for industry, well-considered trade agreements, stamping out smuggling, astute policy planning, timely addressing of issues and also transparency. But these are long term answers to the economic enigma, and the most likely immediate solution, with white flag waving, is the familiar, ‘IMF, here we come’! Again.