- ‘Relief, recovery and reforms’ need of economic sector
Common sense, creativity, out-of-the -box thinking, improvisation and steadfast political drive and will are the human qualities required to lift the country out of its present economic morass. At times of great financial distress, nations have responded with varying policies and programmes, but the underlining theme has always been realism and pragmatism to provide swift succour and relief to the most affected citizens. The then Soviet Union’s New Economic Policy (1921-28), in a stunning break from its doctrinaire socialism, allowed limited and controlled market economy, which somewhat restored its collapsed finances. US President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal (initially 1933-36) introduced scores of public works programmes, emergency relief for unemployed and farmers, reforms in banking, industry, waterpower, labour and housing, and social security, to combat the ruinous impact of the Great Depression, despite being contrary to the basic capitalist concept of laissez faire.
Pakistan’s economy too is poised at a dangerous crossroads, and purely theoretical and textbook solutions or delayed decisions will no longer deliver the needful. Time is of the essence, as is proper prioritisation of problems and decisive action. The concerned Task Force’s most daunting task is the urgent raising of $12 billion to meet this year’s liabilities alone, a thorny path that leads firstly to the familiar IMF lair, and thereafter possibly to the World Bank, Asian Development Bank or Islamic Development Bank, and the second the boosting of exports to reduce the yawning balance of payments gap. An example: Chinese exports to Pakistan last year totalled $15 billion and vice-versa just $1.5 billion. The national debt stands at a staggering Rs.28 trillion, including external obligations of $95 billion, and this precarious situation demands a whole range of properly implemented counter-measures, including documentation and broadening of tax base, drastically raising domestic productivity, both in industry and agriculture, educational and human development input, and de-politicised and merit-based financial regulatory bodies. The goal of economic stability should include a ‘decade of austerity’, cracking down on annual money laundering of reportedly $10 billion and resort to the Pakistani diaspora. Funds and energy expended on recovering ill-gotten loot stashed abroad would not go unrewarded or wasted.