REAL TROUBLE

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 13 Oct 2018 12:17:56

UNDER its new Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan, Pakistan is now beginning to feel the intense heat of a real trouble even as it seeks the largest ever loan of USD 8 billion from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The idea is to bail the economy out of an otherwise irredeemable abyss which is of the making of the successive rulers of the country over the past seven decades. The IMF may grant the loan request out of multiple considerations, but the very fact that such a huge sum is being asked for, indicates how deep is Pakistan’s economic trouble.

Looking at the current condition, it does not seem feasible that the IMF loan would do much good to the Pakistani economy which is dogged by absolute wrong priorities of allocation of financial resources and their spending. Obviously, Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan’s hands are full -- with the dirty legacy he has to handle. So bad is the condition that he even chose to auction eight buffalos from the backyard of his predecessor Mr. Nawaz Sharif, simultaneously with auctions of foreign-made cars to earn whatever money he could. This kind of tooth-picking, of course, will never serve any purpose except to showcase poverty of ideas. There may be some populism in his approach, an attempt to show to the voters that he is sparing no effort to redeem the economy. Yet, with such an approach, even the IMF’s USD 8 billion would not be of much help. For, management of modern economy needs much more than cheap populism.

Pakistan’s actual economic trouble is outside the economic domain; it is in the political arena. For reasons inexplicable to people with common sense, right from Day One of its formation, Pakistan got bogged down with leadership whose priority was not national development. All rulers, without exception, targeted India from the beginning in a senseless and terribly uninformed hope that India would get bogged down by the Pakistani overtures. India did not get bogged down by all that, but Pakistan itself did. For, when a generally poor country wishes to spend a lot of money on unproductive ideas, then the first casualty is its own economy. This, in nutshell, is Pakistan’s story.

A country that has no industry worth the name, a country that is poor in both, manufacturing and services, a country whose trained manpower is jobless in astounding numbers, a country whose education is not aimed at skill development, a country whose economic processes are still dogged by the Mullahs and whose administration is run by the Military, cannot be expected to make real progress. This is another facet of Pakistan’s economic story. When there are such holes in the basic story, an IMF loan of USD 8 billion would have only a marginal impact on recovery. Again, Mr. Imran Khan has no mean a task to fulfill.

Yet another reason for Pakistan’s economic woes is that its rulers kept trying to match up with India’s defence preparedness on the ground of statistics and not on the ground of threat-perception. That meant spendings far beyond means so much so that the whole effort went off the mark and disturbed the economic balance. There is no doubt that Mr. Imran Khan realisesd all this, but may not actually know how to tackle the challenge. For, as the world insists, he is just a stooge of the Military. If this suspicion is true, then there is little chance of a planned effort of economic recovery by careful planning and smart utilisation of the IMF loan. But if the Military is going to grab all the money for its own purpose, which may not be nationalistic every time, then the journey to doom will never be stemmed and reversed.

It is not possible to assess if Mr. Imran Khan has the wherewithal to kick-start the country’s economic recovery, or if the Mullahs and the Military have the will to do so. Both, distant and intimate, views of Pakistan’s economy do not offer any specific and positive answer to questions in this regard. But going by experience, it can be said safely that Pakistan may be pushed to the brink by seeking a loan as huge as USD 8 billion from the IMF. To the contrary, this may be the start of a fresh trouble.