Deviating from the Quaid’s road map
Politicians tend to make exaggerated claims about their achievements to dispel negative impressions among the populace about their performance. Prime Ministrer Imran khan has conceded that the last two years of his tenure were difficult but maintains that the economy is improving, exports have gone up and tax collection has exceeded targets. While he may not be altogether wrong the question is if the progress is more than marginal.
The exports show signs of revival as the pace of decline slowed in June. A continuous fall in imports is however providing some breathing space for the government to manage the external account despite negative growth in exports. The covid-19 pandemic has already led to a loss of 5.3 million jobs. In case the growth rate touches four percent in next fiscal year, 2021-22, and five percent in 2022-23, some of these jobs might be retrieved. But will it? The country needs to create over two million jobs over the next decade to absorb new workers entering the labor market. With an employment elasticity of 0.5, this will require seven percent annual GDP growth.
Pakistan’s exports could be made compatible with those of India and Bangladesh if power was made available to industry at cheaper rates. But unless Pakistan’s industrialists improve the quality of goods the margin provided by cheap electricity alone may not keep them competitive.
The PM says he is taking measures towards creating an Islamic welfare state as visualized by the Founding Father. Many think he is in fact pushing Pakistan in the opposite direction. The Quaid-e-Azam wanted Pakistan to be a pluralistic state with equal rights for all minorities. The way Mr Khan first appointed an economic advisor, then dropped him because of his faith, is just one example of his surrender to the clergy. The Founding Father also stood for the supremacy of the civilian authority, and for a federal and parliamentary form of government. Mr Khan on the other hand runs the country with the help of several unelected advisors and assistants and rarely attends the National Assembly, showing a preference for a presidential form of government. Under PM Imran Khan, the country has been made to diverge blatantly from the direction mapped out by the Quaid.