big challenge

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 04 Sep 2018 11:51:01

EVEN as he intends to rope in foreign experts as members of the Economic Advisory Council in a bid to rebuild the debt-ridden economy, Pakistan Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan must be realising how difficult the task is going to be. Without doubt, he must have realised that the State coffers must be almost totally empty and that there is no cushion to help the country absorb any further economic shocks. And that appears to be the reason why he has chosen himself to head Pakistan’s EAC and enlist foreign expertise to make two ends meet. As he tries to grapple with this imperative, Mr. Imran Khan must be realising also that Pakistan is in for a long haul as regards a possible economic recovery. In just as a few days in office, he must have realised that the challenge is much bigger than he had initially imagined. 

But then, Mr. Imran Khan is an inheritor of an ugly economic legacy. Right from Day One as Pakistan was formed, the country found itself loaded down by a terrible economic crunch. Everything was new and everything had to be reorganised. However, instead of undertaking that onerous task, the Pakistani rulers engaged themselves in domestic turf wars, even as a section in the Government busied itself with an implausible day-dream of snatching Kashmir from India. With that as one of the main aims of its foreign policy apparatus, Pakistan headed straight to a deeper economic crisis as the whole effort consumed huge amounts of precious money. Then came the military as a lord of the ring in Pakistani Government, with no thought for a strong economic build-up. For full seven decades since its formation, Pakistan, thus, has kept losing a lot of money into sort of a bottomless pit. In an effort to keep itself afloat, it converted itself into an eternal client-state that was willing to give up its sovereign powers just to garner some chunks of economic help without an ability to offer collateral. Such a State was bound to meet the fate it is faced with now.

Even though such a fate befell Pakistan, its rulers did not pay much attention to the economy. The world saw the contrast between Pakistan and India on the economic front. While India built its industry, agriculture, education, healthcare, social welfare, Pakistan built only a utopia that one day it would snatch Kashmir away from India and would become a great power -- on the strength of foreign aid and not an intrinsic build-up. That brazen neglect is now showing in every sphere. Mr. Imran Khan now stands weighed down by this ugly economic legacy.

The main visible difference between the previous regimes in Pakistan and the current one is that the Prime Minister is himself gearing up to head the Economic Advisory Council so that he would be in direct touch with the process of recovery. This is new to Pakistan’s political eco-system, and may raise a ray of hope of a little better time for the country in economic terms.

Of course, the holes in Pakistan’s economy are too gaping and too dangerous to tackle. When the country’s indigenous industry and trade are at their lowest in seventy years, when its trained manpower is all the time eager to flee the scene, when its capital is in a perpetual flight mode, it is going to be extremely difficult for Pakistan to start the process of rebuilding. Add to all this the poisonous interference of the military and the clergy in public affairs, and the dirty picture gets dirtier. It was because of these reasons that an American think-tank had presented multiple alternate scenarios of what might happen to Pakistan. One of those scenarios was that Pakistan may break up once more. Though that scenario may seem rather far-fetched, Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan may be getting similar nightmares. Hence his alarm and the effort to enlist foreign expertise to start the process to rebuild the economy. But do the chips seem to favour him?