A mass leader with no hype
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad is welcome for offering to activate the so far dormant potential of trade and investment with Pakistan. He is also welcome as the chief guest on Pakistan Day celebrations. But most of all he is welcome for his humility and realism, that one fails to find in the present generation of Pakistani politicians.
While Prime Minister Imran Khan complained that only a few Muslim leaders take stands on issues that affect the Muslim world, what concerned Dr Mahathir more was that no Muslim country had yet joined the category of developed nations, including Malaysia. While responding to Mr Khan’s tirade against corruption he owned that his country too had suffered from the malaise. However, he assiduously avoided tarnishing any political rival. In the development of inter-state ties, the Malaysian PM stressed the role of business and trade. Unaffected by Mr Khan’s eulogy about his role in the progress of Malaysia, Dr Mahathir tentatively mentioned the year 2025 as when Malaysia might become a developed country.
The visit is yet another indicator that shows that attempts made to isolate Pakistan have not succeeded. For Pakistan, the immediate gain from the visit is the signing of five MoUs covering $800-$900 million worth of investments. This looks good on paper but not all signed documents showing intent translate into active projects. Yes, Pakistan could make use of its connections with Malaysian businessmen to get access to Asean. But for this, Pakistan has to first put its basics right. Unless the government raises more taxes, reduces fiscal and current account deficits, and produces high value goods on competitive prices, whatever expectations are being built might turn out to be day dreams.
It is simplistic on the part of Mr Khan to hope that Pakistan can copy-paste another country’s successful economic model. To put it simply, there’s no snake oil for success. Success requires realism, hard work and sacrifice. While looking for new opportunities it would be sheer foolishness to alienate time-tested friends. There is thus a need to rein in advisors who publicly critcise “China-centric economic policies”, holding these responsible for the massive decline in investment from other countries in the past five years.