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ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Murtaza Solangi on Monday while denouncing all doubts over the upcoming general elections in the country has said that the polls will be held on February 8, 2024 in any case.

The minister while addressing a seminar titled, “PIDE Reform Manifesto: Transforming Economy and Society” organised by the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), emphasised that the people will exercise their right to vote as envisioned in the Constitution.

The minister regretted the unwarranted doubts cast on the election process, emphasising that it is clearly stated in the preamble of the onstitution that the country will be governed by elected representatives.

The information minister said there should be a discussion on the fundamental issues faced by the country, including those related to the economy, foreign policy, population explosion, health, and education. Stressing the need for democracy within political parties, he expressed confidence that Pakistan will move towards addressing these issues.

The PIDE has developed the report based on four-year research, various conferences, seminars, and consultative meetings which underscored the need for encouraging political parties, media, and civil society to actively engage in discussions surrounding proposed reforms by setting aside political differences. It underscores the importance of embracing change as a societal norm to pave the way for a more prosperous and sustainable future for Pakistan.

The report called for a radical reevaluation of policy-making, governance, and business practices, stressing the necessity for a continuous process of reform, driven by learning and evolution, to address the deep-rooted social and economic problems facing Pakistan.

Speaking on the occasion, PIDE Vice-Chancellor (VC) Dr Nadeemul Haque expressed serious concerns over the confronted national economic challenges that persisted despite 24 International Monetary Fund (IMF) programmes.

Excessive government regulation, he said, particularly from a bureaucratic system inherited from colonial times, hampered the formal market, with the government’s interference estimated at 64 percent of the economy.

Additionally, he said a regulatory cost of up to 45 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) further restricted investment opportunities. Despite these challenges, he said, “the hope lies in Pakistan’s youthful population, yearning for change.”

Haque said that PIDE believes that the manifesto is not just a document but “a visionary road map poised to revolutionise both the economic landscape and societal fabric of Pakistan.” He proposed deep reforms and advocated for a complete overhaul of governance structures, including the bureaucracy, judiciary, and democratic systems, to harness the potential of the 21st century.

“This transformative vision emphasises the need for markets to function efficiently, talent to be nurtured, and the country to evolve with the times.”

PIDE Pro Vice-Chancellor Dr Durre Nayab highlighted the critical challenges faced by Pakistan, emphasising that addressing the changing demography and managing the escalating debt burden requires sustained and elevated economic growth. According to PIDE’s estimates, the demographic bulge is projected to persist until 2056, necessitating the addition of over two million new jobs annually for the next 30 years.

Nayab stressed that achieving and maintaining an economic growth rate well above seven per cent annually was imperative to meet this demand. PIDE’s research indicates that a comprehensive strategy of deep reforms is essential for fostering the necessary growth. Nayab also expressed concern over declining productivity, particularly in export and subsidy-seeking sectors, urging concerted efforts to reverse this trend for sustained economic prosperity.

Speaking on the occasion, PIDE Senior Research Economist Dr Ahmed WaqarQasim highlighted the significant challenges posed by civil bureaucracy, operating within a system devised during colonial times.

Emphasising the outdated nature of bureaucratic structures and policy processes, he expressed concern over their incapacity to effectively address the complexities of the modern world. Qasim further highlighted the bureaucratic hurdles impeding growth, innovation, and development.

“Unnecessary regulatory burdens, dead capital, and policy control hinder progress, creating a management system resistant to professionalisation and modernisation.” He criticised the outdated human resource management system, which prioritised seniority over achievements and performance, maintaining archaic training and payment structures.

Dr Qasim called for urgent reforms to align the management system with the needs of the 21st century, emphasising merit-based evaluations and dismantling the antiquated practices hindering genuine talent from contributing effectively to the public sector. In presenting a vision for the future, the manifesto advocates for a comprehensive overhaul of the governance system, including reforms to the bureaucracy, judiciary, and democratic structures.

“The goal is to create an environment conducive to nurturing talent and enabling markets to function more effectively, leveraging the potential of Pakistan’s youthful demographic.”

Addressing the historical backdrop, the manifesto delves into the persistent colonial-era bureaucracy, estimating that government interference encompasses nearly 64 per cent of the economy. This bureaucratic overreach, combined with a regulatory cost equivalent to 45 per cent of the GDP, has proven detrimental to investment and overall economic growth.

The report also sheds light on Pakistan’s political system, which has evolved around patronage rather than ideology. This approach not only results in unsustainable debt levels but also muddles local politics with national agendas, further complicating governance and public investment.

Highlighting the negative impact of the current governance structure on talent retention, the manifesto emphasises the loss of innovative and entrepreneurial skills to foreign shores. It argues that international aid and lending institutions have exacerbated the issue by treating Pakistan as a modernised economy, thereby, impeding organic thought and research.

In presenting a vision for the future, the manifesto advocates for a comprehensive overhaul of the governance system, including reforms to the bureaucracy, judiciary, and democratic structures. The goal is to create an environment conducive to nurturing talent and enabling markets to function more effectively, leveraging the potential of Pakistan’s youthful demographic.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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