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ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal has said that the country’s economic development was linked to good relations with its four strategic partners, including the US, Europe, the Gulf states, and China.

“If we want to see our country developing fast, we will have to maintain good relations with these countries,” Ahsan Iqbal said while addressing the inaugural session of the Research for Social Transformation and Advancement (RASTA) conference organized by the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE),here on Wednesday.

The minister said that Pakistan’s development journey was moving in a circle since its inception, saying if the country does not come out of that circle, Pakistan will be even behind Afghanistan in the next few years. He said in 1980, the per capita income of China was $200 while that of Pakistan was $380. Similarly, in 1960, Pakistan’s exports were worth $200 million while now it had hardly reached $25 billion, while South Korean exports, on the other hand, reached over $700 billion now from a mere $100 million in 1960.

The minister reiterated the importance of political stability and continuity of policy for the economic development of Pakistan. Professor Ahsan Iqbal said that countries such as China, India, Bangladesh, and Malaysia were lagging behind Pakistan economically a couple of decades ago but now they have leapfrogged ahead of Pakistan.

Later in the day, as many as four research papers completed under the second round of the RASTA Competitive Grants Programme (CGP) and two Demand Driven Research (DDR) projects were presented on the first day of the second RASTA conference. Among others, the conference was attended by representatives of ministries, departments, and sector specialists from international and national organizations.

Talking about the importance of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Iqbal said that the inception of the CPEC was a turning point in the history of Pakistan, adding that for the first time, the country was perceived from an economic standpoint rather than the usual security lens. He said that diplomats from various countries approached the government to express their desire to become a part of the Corridor, but unfortunately, the progress on the CPEC halted once the government changed in 2018.

He said when no one in the world was ready to invest even a single penny China came forward and made investments worth billions of dollars under the CPEC. But unfortunately, he said there was no significant investment in the country under CPEC during the previous four years.

Ahsan Iqbal said when in 1988 Muhammad Khan Junejo’s government was toppled with a single signature by the then President, he was much upset and decided to struggle for the supremacy of the Constitution and democracy of the country. He said with regret he had to say that no solid progress had been observed during these 35 years and the same thing was still happening now.

He said things common among the countries that were developing fast are political stability, continuity of policies, and rule of law.

The countries, he said with no stability and with discontinuities of the policies could never develop. “If there are reversals of policies every now and then, then how far we hire the most efficient and intelligent people, we will not be able to develop economically.”

The minister added that the current fiscal year’s development budget was Rs900 billion, but by the last quarter of the year, it was confined to only Rs500 billion and the Finance Division had no funds to release for the development projects under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2021-22.

He urged the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) to do research work that how to take maximum benefits from the mega project of the CPEC.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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