Planning ahead

Cabinet approves five-year plan for the economy

Apart from dealing with the appointment of a judicial commission to deal with the Islamabad High Court judges’ complaints of interference, the federal Cabinet did something perhaps more significant, by approving a five-year economic plan. The plan consists of various economic ministries being given targets, and them having, in the words of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, ‘responsibility with accountability.’ Though there was no direct link drawn, the plan depends on two major factors: a successful outcome of the judicial commission investigation, and the government completing its five-year tenure, something that no government has ever done before.Other steps, while of great importance, and more likely to have an impact on the lives of the ordinary man, depend on these two.

If the judiciary’s independence is compromised, its loses both credibility and efficiency as a dispute resolution mechanism. Its economic utility is not so much in crimes such as murder or such events as the May 9 attacks, but in civil litigation involving productive assets. Foreign investors especially need an efficient dispute resolution mechanism in place before making a large financial commitment. As for the completion of its tenure, no investor, whether foreign or domestic, wants to have to deal with new people at the helm of affairs in a short time. No investor really cares about the people in power, being more concerned about the continuity of policy. Even when the same party remains in power, the kind of changes in Prime Minister in the past has meant a disruption, and a shift in priorities. One of the more ambitious targets adopted by the government is for software exports to reach $25 billion. This requires both a dependable dispute mechanism system (in other words, an uncompromised justice system) and continuity in the government.

This plan is also predicated on the receipt of an IMF programme, but does not pay enough attention to the domestic market. It is only a vibrant domestic market that leads to high exports. The government clearly has no overarching economic doctrine, which may actually be a good thing, as it faces hard enough a task without any doctrinaire blinkers. At the same time, the policy of making small changes and increasing the efficiency of the system, is making the assumption that the system itself is sound, and just needs to e operated right. That assumption may well be wrong. And if so, where does the government plan to go from there?

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].


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