- Time for the great leap forward?
Imran has won. The country has celebrated. The time for elation is over. The prime minister-in-waiting must immediately enter work mode now because great obstacles lay ahead.
The promise to create 10 million jobs in five years does not seem like a farfetched goal given the time frame. But, there is a debt crisis looming at the moment, energy shortages plague the country and a burgeoning population has proven detrimental to national economic security time and again.
Imran will have to immediately tackle with the foreign-reserves crunch which has forced the State Bank to devaluate the rupee at least four times since December. All this comes at a time of rising global oil prices, market sell-off, looming regional and international trade wars in the region and lack of energy management to power the economy. To top it off, the prime minister-in-waiting has promised to construct five million housing units and to provide income support to eight million families.
Imran has passionately opposed International Monetary Fund programs throughout his ‘struggle’ but if he wants to pursue his welfare ideology pragmatically then knocking at the Fund’s door once more is inescapable.
Imran’s speech, although balanced and very well delivered, failed to mention two sectors that cut across not only horizontally but also vertically through all sections of society; Education and health. These two components are essential to welfare of the people. So what must Imran Khan do?
Scandinavian states, especially Norway and Finland have achieved the perfect marriage between socialism and democracy, hence; the successful social welfare models
Lion’s share of the revenues generated by the government must go to health and education. Preceding this, a public-private partnership must be made in the education and health sectors. Public schools and universities must be lifted at par with the private sector. But where will the revenues come from? This is where Imran’s promise pertaining to tax revenue and collection comes in. This can be done by reforming the FBR and the revenue collection system, which the skipper has already spoken about. The reform, however, can only be achieved after a complete overhaul of the induction and service structure of the central superior services is achieved.
Improving education and health levels of the citizenry will have a retrospective effect on the national economy. Men and women required to power the wheels of economy cannot function without the required skills and unless they enjoy good health. The prime minister-in-waiting must see this as not just an imperative part of his reform programme but also as the starting point, if he wishes to lift Pakistan out of the present abyss the country finds itself in.
Accountability, which is inextricably entrenched with institutional strength, has been Imran’s main focus. He has said on several occasions that independent and strong institutions are the gateway to an effective perpetual accountability innings in the country. How can this come about? Institutions can only be made independent and subsequently strengthened if, for starters, their heads are made independent. This can be done by legally assuring terms of service to institutional heads. Secondly, the appointments of heads must be made according to a fixed service structure and not on the whims of the prime minister and the chief ministers. Lastly, institutions must be given adequate funds to fulfil their tasks and increase their operational capacity. All institutions must be allowed to indulge in the corporate world or all must be strictly barred, so that institutional balance is maintained.
Imran and his team must carefully study the economic, social and political system of Madinah and then look for contemporary economies that somewhat mirror that system. The skipper, once he turns the globe, will inevitably find himself stopping at Scandinavia. Scandinavian states, especially Norway and Finland have achieved the perfect marriage between socialism and democracy, hence; the successful social welfare models.
Lastly, Imran must be cognizant of the prevailing relationships between institutions and must at all costs avoid collisions, unless it is absolutely necessary. Imran must take charge and define national interest. This can be done if a sustainable economic growth model backed by stable power outputs, food security and the imparting of equitable and quality education are also added to national security issues. A working relationship with other institutions, whose respect Imran already enjoys, is the key to pushing his reform agenda further.
Pakistan has waited for this moment since 1947. It is time for the great leap forward. Good luck Mr Prime Minister!