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Perspectives

Make the tough choices: it is now or never

  • People are likely to come to terms with tough actions right now. Its the inaction that would be difficult to explain later
Published January 2, 2023

One can make the argument that no news is good news these days. For the one who toils hard each day to make ends meets only bears witness to reports of economic distress, political infighting, rampant corruption, increasing crime rates, and even an underperforming cricket team.

One has to ask the question: how can a country that boasts one of the world's largest young demographics, a crucial geostrategic location along with a much talked about nuclear capability remain in such a dire predicament?

Pakistan's Rupee sees its worst year since 2008 meltdown

This is evident not only on the economic front, an aspect that has taken a considerable priority among the public discourse in recent times, but in all facets of the nation's life.

One may argue that Pakistan, like any other country in the world, has had to deal with its fair share of hardships since its inception back in 1947.

The country went through wars, natural calamities, a terrible separation, and terrorism, but throughout its history, the South Asian state always found a way to overcome the odds and move forward.

One of the major reasons behind this achievement was Pakistan's ability to negotiate with both its external and internal forces. However, what has transpired recently exposes the country's glaring weakness in this regard.

Geo-dynamics – 2023

Pakistan has always been a volatile state, which is the case in any heterogeneous society. However, recently, powers that be seemed to have lost the ability to bring different stakeholders to the table, and get them to agree for Pakistan's interest. This is getting increasingly obvious, and is massively detrimental to any progress that can be achieved.

Looking at the current setup, those who are in charge of running the country's affairs – the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) – is a coalition government made up of political parties that have not only been historical opponents, but also share opposing views on the mode of governance as well. This is not a match made in heaven.

Keeping that in mind, the government, which took power in April after successfully managing a vote of no-confidence against then-prime minister Imran Khan, has so far remained unsuccessful in delivering its promises.

Foot-dragging on the pending IMF review

Foremost among them is the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme which has yet again been put in the doldrums. This has led to open criticism among members of the same party — ex-finance Minister Miftah Ismail, who was responsible for reviving the IMF programme , has publicly criticised his successor Ishaq Dar for the delay.

To date, Pakistan has been unable to impress or even convince the international lender of its reforms' agenda, leading to massive volatility in its currency and stock markets.

Adding to the woes, Pakistan has been unable to arrange funds from its allied partners, while its foreign exchange reserves continue to decline to alarming levels, which is not just an economic blow but also raises concerns on the diplomatic front.

‘Won’t take IMF’s dictation’: Dar

Meanwhile, speculative activity remains rife, as the government admits that US dollars, wheat and fertiliser are being smuggled to neighbouring countries. This reflects a governance failure — the issue cannot get more basic than this.

On the other hand, companies from different sectors are one after the other shutting down operations citing reasons from low demand to government policies, creating risks of massive layoffs in the coming days.

On the foreign policy front as well, the government machinery has so far remained unsuccessful in conveying its plight pertaining to the recent flooding to the international community.

Dar addresses ebbing investor confidence

Rows of diplomatic meetings and galas resulted in the United Nations (UN) appealing for more than $816 million, but the amount is peanuts in comparison to the nearly $14-15 billion in losses Pakistan estimates it sustained due to the climate-induced catastrophe.

On the political sphere, a dearth of good negotiators is being felt the most profoundly. A rise in terrorism and a seemingly cold shoulder from Afghanistan's interim government come to mind.

The ongoing squabbles among the ones in power and those representing the opposition are arguably the primary reason behind the crises. Decision-makers remain at loggerheads and are busy disseminating rhetoric, which in many cases is going against the larger interest of the nation. And time is running out.

Stakeholders managing affairs need to introspect and identify the lapses. However, they do not enjoy the luxury of time and tough decision-making remains the only option to take the country out of this mess.

People are likely to come to terms with tough actions right now. Its the inaction that would be difficult to explain later — maybe then there won't be a chance to explain either.

The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners

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Ali Ahmed

The writer is a Senior Sub Editor at Business Recorder (Digital)

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