The recent success on IMF (International Monetary Fund) funding, a bullish stock market, the rupee value stabilizing against dollar, the jubilation in signing of dozens of MoUs with Gulf countries whose value, according to the government, runs into billions of dollars are all good news in these days of difficult times and should have boosted the morale of the people and spurred the market sentiment.
This, however, did not happen. A certain grimness, which is strongly characterised by malaise and despondency, lingers in the air. The wheels of economic growth generated out of money transactions in businesses, trade and industry, real estate and similar are not moving. The people are sitting on the fence and watching the situation like zombies.
The causes and consequences of this malaise could be many. But the primary cause appears to be people’s loss of trust in the political, judicial, state governance and socio-economic system of the country.
Over the years too much has gone wrong and the people sustained it, hoping for the better. The state institutions are at a loss to mitigate the malaise and struggling to dissipate the despondency confronting the nation.
Corruption, inflation, poverty, illiteracy and other socio - economic challenges are part of many emerging markets, but all of them appear to be systemically overcoming it and the nations are moving forward on the strength of their economic growth, political stability, continuity of policies and institutional maturity.
India, which along with Pakistan gained independence from the British colonial rule on the same day, hosts one of world’s largest populations of poor with a strong religious and ethnic diversity, but with maturity in state governance and consistent economic growth at an average of 7 percent over the last two decades this South Asian country has been performing quite well in areas of poverty alleviation, socio-economic and infrastructure development and global diplomacy.
According to S&P Global, India, which is currently the fifth largest economy of the world, will become the third largest economy by 2030.
Vietnam, a country that emerged from the ravages of the wars of the 1950s and 60s, and Indonesia, which sustained years of political instability and foreign interference, are other examples of winning by overcoming challenges that they faced and surprised the world by becoming members of the elite G20 club of the 20 best performing economies of the world.
What is common among these three examples of success is the sincerity of adherence to the basic rules of state governance, viz: political stability, consistent policies, rule of law, functional institutions, constitutional respect and the will and national pride to outdo and outperform other nations in socio-economic development.
In the case of Pakistan, however, perpetual weaknesses in the institutions of the state, frequent political fluctuations, lack of consistency in policies, and power struggles have created a strong sense of uncertainty and disillusionment among the populace.
Added to these challenges is persistent security threats, from both internal and external sources, which has created an atmosphere of fear and instability, impeding Pakistan’s overall development and economic growth.
Rampant and institutionalized corruption within the governance structures has eroded public trust in state institutions and discouraged local and foreign investment. The lack of accountability fuels a sense of hopelessness among the masses, hindering progress.
High levels of unemployment and a widening wealth gap characterize Pakistan’s economic landscape. A significant portion of the population, therefore, becomes disenchanted with their prospects, contributing to overall despondency.
Dr Hafeez A. Pasha, a leading economist, laments that poverty had increased in Pakistan due to unemployment and inflation. He has stated:
“At this time, it is estimated that around 100 million people have gone below the poverty line. Many of them also belong to lower middle class.”
The ever-increasing cost of living, coupled with skyrocketing inflation rates, puts an additional burden on the average citizen. The resultant economic strain adds to the prevalent malaise.
A beleaguered power sector, persistent energy shortages, rising tariffs, and inadequate infrastructure cripple industrial growth, leading to reduced investment opportunities, which in turn intensify the feeling of hopelessness among the Pakistanis.
Pakistan, a nation endowed with immense potential, once again stands at a critical juncture in its history. This prevailing sense of pessimism and stagnation acts as a hindrance to Pakistan’s progress and inhibits the nation from realizing its full potential.
Breaking free from the shackles of this malaise and despondency requires a collective effort from all stakeholders in Pakistan. The foremost task is to restore the trust of the people by demonstrating sincerity and acting upon it by bringing around change for the better in the on-ground situation.
The test is around the corner. To succeed it is imperative that we have free and fair elections that lead to formation of a mature and sincere government to run the affairs of the country free from internal and external inferences.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023