Pakistan is perhaps the only country that is a multi-party democracy and where the government has strong footprints in businesses, Caretaker Energy Minister Mohammed Ali said on Sunday.

He passed these remarks during a panel discussion on the topic ‘The Big Picture: Future of Pakistan’ on the last day of the 15th Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) 2024 held at the Beach Luxury Hotel.

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Ali said Pakistan is not a self-reliant country and to become one it has to do several things, starting from reducing the government’s role in businesses.

“I think we need alignment in our political and economic system,” he said.

Apart from Ali, Federal Banking Ombudsman Sirajuddin Aziz, Maheen Rahman of InfraZamin, and President of Habib University Wasif Rizvi also spoke in the panel discussion that was moderated by former minister of the Board of Investment, Azfar Ahsan.

Caretaker Finance Minister Dr Shamshad Akthar was also scheduled to attend the event, but did not make the appearance.

“Broadly looking, there are two models that successful countries follow – one model is a single party system such as China or countries that have centralised decision making such as the Middle East. The government has large footprints in businesses in these countries and we have seen them owning and running businesses successfully,” Ali continued.

He said these countries have been successful because of consistency in decision-making or policies, which is because there has been a continuity of leadership.

“The second model is the multi-party democratic system that Pakistan has. If you look at the world, there would perhaps hardly be a multi-party democratic system where the government manages businesses.

“Governments do not manage businesses and that is a very conscious decision,” the interim minister maintained.

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He was of the view that in a multi-party democracy different parties come after a few years to rule and they manage businesses on their own way. When the government of a country manages businesses, there happen to be preferential appointments and state assets are even used for personal advantages, he added.

An ideal situation could be that the government legislates and make policies, and the economy is run by the private sector. Moreover, the size of the federal units must be reduced with respect to increase in population, Ali further said.   Along with this, he continued, strong local government are also needed to be responsible for the economy of their respective areas.

Meanwhile, Sirajuddin Aziz said Pakistan’s huge under-30 population is an asset, however, they are being ignored as investment is not being made on them.

“In the year 2047, if the youth remains the same as it is today, we all will fail,” he maintained, stressing that education and health are key to development.

Sirajuddin Aziz further said Pakistan’s foreign policy is still stuck in the mid-50s and 60s era due to which Pakistani products do not find new markets.

Although China is our best friend, economic friendship is at a low level, he lamented. “There is rivalry between China and India, but the trade between China and India is worth several hundred billion dollars.”

Chief Executive of InfraZamin, Maheen Rehman, was hopeful that the future of Pakistan is bright because of its young population. “Our youth are technology savvy and aware of their rights.”

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She shared that 3 million educated youth join the job market annually, but suitable jobs are not available for them.

Maheen explained that employment could be provided to the youth of Pakistan by bringing them into agriculture.

She was of the view that food security can be achieved through corporate farming, and solar, wind, and hydropower can solve energy issues.

Wasif Rizvi shed light on climate issues, saying that humans damaged the planet and they needed to addresses these issues to prevent annihilation of many species on the planet.

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