Putting own house in order – Now or Never

A nation is said to be politically stable if its government operates according to its citizens’ expectations, its basic needs are met, pressing problems are fixed, and fundamental rights are upheld. Political stability also implies a favorable, crime- and violence-free working environment for the workforce and other working classes. Additionally, the government manages the economy properly, allowing people to make a living at affordable prices for services, energy, and everyday products. The socioeconomic problems of society’s resentful and alienated sections must also be addressed to integrate them into mainstream politics.

Pakistan’s contributions and sacrifices for international peace and stability, manifested through its support to UN peacekeeping, spanning over the past six decades, is a widely appreciated endeavor. However, for a better future, we must examine our policies, institutions, and markets closely to spot bottlenecks and inefficiencies since a default scenario damages our relationship with investors and has far-reaching repercussions. Economic stability and sustained growth can only be made possible after that.

Additionally, it is essential that the government and the opposition parties get along well and that the parliament passes laws. It is crucial that general elections be conducted on schedule, fairly, and transparently, and that the political parties trust the institutions overseeing the elections and accept the results. However, current legal and electoral processes should handle any election-related concerns.

Since political stability and economic development are intertwined, Pakistan should avoid political instability since it would negatively affect an economy already burdened with a high foreign debt load and slowed down by COVID-19-related smart lockdowns. This instability will further hinder the nation’s economic growth and development since it will interfere with implementing economic programs, deter foreign investment, and disrupt corporate operations.

Numerous business organizations, especially the chambers of commerce and industry, are leading the charge to identify a minimal set of economic reforms that all parties can accept and on which work can be maintained regardless of any upcoming changes in government.

We must break our isolation and deepen global and regional interaction to enhance exports. Domestic changes to taxes and trade laws will be necessary. In particular, we must not impede global commerce by collecting over 50% of all taxes from that source, which is below the worldwide average of less than 5%.

The potential for service export is enormous. Exports of IT have recently increased by about 25% yearly. There is no reason we shouldn’t be able to increase exports from the present $2.6 billion to $10 billion if this momentum continues over the next five years. Secondly, the existing pitiful financing will need to be at least quadrupled to raise the literacy rate to the same level as other regional nations. Most of the newly allocated cash should improve technical education and skill development. Any increase in financing must be seen as a crucial investment to address other issues, including uncontrollable population growth, a lack of technical expertise, and a lack of high-value-added exports.

Eliminating the exclusions made possible by different regulatory measures, such as SROs, would allow Pakistan to drastically minimize elite capture. The allocation of land to the wealthy, the funding of certain industries, and the shielding of the wealthy from taxes must all be stopped.

Any revenue above a particular amount, whether from agriculture or another source, is subject to taxation. Similarly, all industrial sectors and economic activity have to be treated on the same footing. Regulations shouldn’t be as heavily relied upon as market forces.

A charter of economic changes is a terrific idea that should have the complete backing of all societal groups. Numerous governments and years may be required for the reformation process. However, a beginning must be made right away, and work on it must be sustained for years.

The governance reform agenda is intended to restructure government and revitalize institutions in order to provide basic services to common citizens, such as education, health, water sanitation, and security, effectively and efficiently, as well as to promote inclusive markets through which all citizens have equal opportunities to participate in the economy. By limiting the arbitrary use of discretionary powers, lowering over-taxation, eliminating corruption, cronyism, and collusion, preserving public order, and protecting life and property, the reorganization should cut transaction costs and enable access without frictions.

It is necessary to support and rely on a competitive private sector to achieve long-term economic development. Therefore, one of Pakistan’s main areas of reform is to provide room for the expansion of new players in the private sector by eliminating the barriers the state put in the way of their entrance and efficient operation.

The second problem is the lack of results-based accountability. The accountability of persons active in Pakistan’s public affairs is excessive and insufficient. On the one hand, the proliferation of laws and institutions, including the Ombudsman system, National Accountability Bureau, Auditor General’s reports, Public Accounts Committees of the legislature, judicial activism, and parliamentary oversight, has produced a climate of fear, inaction, and lack of decision-making among the civil servants. On the other side, widespread corruption, unethical behavior, favoritism, nepotism, inefficiency, and waste have become commonplace in the nation’s administrative culture. Substantive concerns with the outcomes and results for welfare and justice have been replaced by excessive stress on ritualistic conformity with processes, regulations, and forms.

Transparency can be introduced through the codification, updating, and widespread dissemination of rules and regulations. E-governance tools like dynamic websites, information kiosks, and online access to government functionaries can help enforce internal accountability standards while making it simple for the public to conduct hassle-free transactions. The media, political parties, the business sector, think tanks, and organized civil society advocacy organizations may exert significant pressure on certain industries or activities to increase government agencies’ and ministries’ accountability.

The third reform area focuses on the size, composition, and purview of the Federal, Provincial, and Local Governments as well as the public officials’ qualifications, incentives, and abilities. It is necessary to analyze and revamp the whole value chain of human resource policy, from hiring through remuneration. The separation of duties and responsibilities among the various levels of government must also be made clear and distinct. Reducing the Ministry’s and Excessive Division’s hierarchy and realigning the ministry’s interaction with the executive departments and autonomous organizations is necessary.

Additionally, political forces must come to terms with an economic constitution that guarantees the nation won’t see repeated boom-and-bust cycles. The idea of a political agreement to restructure the economy has not materialized. The present economic crisis is probably the final chance to steer away from poor growth, excessive inflation, and an economy chronically unwell and burdened by a mountain of debt.

Last but not least, Pakistan has to address the appalling human development statistics, especially regarding women’s literacy and education. Yet there is little financial room for investment in infrastructure, health care, and education, which are essential to social and economic advancement since more than 50% of the budget is spent on debt payment.

Sahibzada M. Usman, Ph.D.
Sahibzada M. Usman, Ph.D.
Research Scholar and Academic; Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of Pisa, Italy. Dr. Usman has participated in various national and international conferences and published 30 research articles in international journals. Email: usmangull36[at]gmail.com