- It’s back to square one
Moving into the second month of national governance, the PTI government apparently seems to be succumbing to the pressures exerted by the grave challenges particularly pertaining to an ailing economy, troubled national security, suffering international diplomacy, and depleting natural resources. Despite faced off with these horrendous problems, eradication of corruption still holds the spotlight as it tops the list of PTI’s agenda for the day. With maximum energy of the government focused on one of the many gigantic tasks that lie ahead, there remains less room for appropriate attention directed towards overcoming the rest. In fact, the anti-corruption drive indirectly applies brakes to the incoming investment, and economic progression.
While these challenges are not new, and have been haunting the country for a decade now, with the PTI under Prime Minister Imran Khan’s leadership taking charge of affairs gave birth to fresh hopes for prevalence of the good. However, now seeing the PTI government give into the prevailing circumstances by back tracking from her longing political stances and electoral promises, further strengthens the impression that upon taking charge of the ship has the PTI team realised it is really sinking!
Being in the opposition, the grass always seemed much greener, however, being in the government now suggests otherwise, perhaps.
Finding itself in the middle of the mess, created by misguided and wrong policies of the previous government(s), the present government very much appears to be taking the same old road as the past government(s) did. Increasing the prices of LNG, CNG, and electricity, dropping the mini-budget bomb on the common man (as criticised severely by the opposition), and in the latest move, announcing to go to the IMF for financial relief are some of the current government’s steps that are very much in the footsteps of the past.
The intriguing question that arises here is that can taking the old road lead us to the promised land of Naya Pakistan? If yes, how come? Whereas time will be the judge, let us attempt to take a peek into the possible answer.
Rest assured, the public did not vote to bear this burden again
Ironically, to our disappointment a brutally honest answer would probably be in the negative. Particularly subject to a time bound duration of the government, taking the old road will only lead us to old destinations; not a new one.
As a case study, let us take the scenario of going to the IMF for an economic bailout package. Whereas going to the IMF is an easy option for the government to inject money in to the economy, however, there was also another option available for the government i.e. to work hard; as termed by Dr Ashfaq Hassan, a distinguished economist, and member of the economic advisory council to the government. “When the government does not want to work hard, going to the IMF is always an easy option”, he stated while talking to a news channel.
Like the past governments, the present one also appears to be overwhelmed by the impression that merely by going to the IMF the economic situation of the country will turn around. Although PM Khan, and the PTI had all along remained the greatest critics of IMF bailout packages, now they think otherwise. Unfortunately, that might not be the case, yet again.
An IMF bailout package would not only increase the overall debt on the country, but comes with strict policy dictations by the body with respect to repayment of the loans. While the government’s intent to utilise the money in turning the loss-stricken government departments, and semi-government organisations into profitable ones capable of assisting in repayment of loans is appreciable, a harsh reality is that this possible turnaround will take at least three (3) to five (5) years. So would increasing the tax base to increase the overall tax net, another stream of government’s possible income to repay the loans.
Until that period, the possible route repayment of loans would take is to increase the prices of utilities, and general commodities by applying taxes ultimately putting the burden of repaying the IMF loans on the already suffering public. Rest assured, the public did not vote to bear this burden again.
It is imperative for the new government to realise that the common man lacks the general understanding of complex processes of economic revival, and is least interested in so. What s/he is more concerned with, on the other hand, are the basic necessities of everyday life, and expects the government to provide relief with respect to the provision of those very necessities. Something that the PTI promised throughout the electoral campaign, and thus, secured winning votes in the general election. Now failing to do so while in the government, no matter how justified in its stand and explanations, will push the public back into the court of other parties i.e. the opposition; ultimately weakening the government’s political position in the run up to next elections.
Whereas the decision to go to the IMF under present circumstances is understandable, PM Khan along with his team of economic advisors must layout new roads to generate the required income stream sufficient to repay the loans incurred. Placing the burden of repayment of loans on the public for long will cost PTI its credibility as a potential hope for Pakistan’s revival, making it just another political option for the public in addition to the existing ones. For our nation is emotional, and tends to judge pretty soon.
PTI government must ensure that the old road taken is short, and temporary, and not too long, else it will keep the country, the nation, and the former itself at a good hands distance from acquiring the dream of Naya Pakistan.