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Following the general election on 8th February 2024, the incoming government is poised to navigate a challenging landscape. Despite current fiscal hurdles, such as inflation exceeding 25%, a budgetary deficit surpassing 7% of national income, and pressing issues in energy availability, there lies an opportunity for transformative positive change.

In the realm of human development, addressing challenges like high infant mortality and fertility rates is crucial. No amount of wealth creation and economic development can outrun the population explosion where the millions of children between the age of five to fifteen are out of school and a huge number of children are malnourished and stunted. Embracing reforms, especially in population management, education and healthcare, can uplift communities and ensure a brighter future for the nation.

Governance enhancement needs top priority and focus of the incoming government, with a focus on revamping the local government system to better deliver essential services. Through strategic decentralization, citizens can expect improved access to health, education, and other vital amenities. We have had episodic working of the local bodies in the early 80s when District, Tehsil and Union Council level local bodies proved their significance in addressing the health, education and other municipal issues faced by the people in the wider reaches of the country. Similarly, in the first decade of this century, the country witnessed the Nazim-based local government system in the districts with commendable results in terms of providing effective municipal services to the people at their doorsteps. Constitutional local government empowerment, safeguarded against arbitrary dilution, will promote efficiency. This entails devolving responsibilities to appropriate levels, ensuring elected officials remain in office until a successor is elected, and providing direct funding from the federal divisible pool.

We as a nation need to learn to live within our means. All the recipients of the tax money must be motivated to reduce their share and keep it proportional to the funds collected by the federation and the provinces. Continuous borrowing to fund the previous debts and to run the day-to-day business of the country is no more a feasible option. The government’s commitment to this, coupled with financial reforms, will be instrumental in securing a stable economic future. A gradual adjustment of the NFC award can balance fiscal responsibilities between the federation and provinces, fostering financial discipline.

To streamline government operations, privatization and robust regulation of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are imminent. The objective is not only to reduce the government’s footprint but also to establish competitive markets, leading to lower consumer prices and improved services. Pricing of energy must be made a transparent and automatic process where the regulators are empowered to determine the prices of oil, gas and other products strictly in line with the given mechanism and to enforce the collection. If the federation or the provinces want to give price relief to certain class of population, then the financial burden should be on them instead of the SOEs which have been traditionally forced to pick up the tab for such state largesse resulting into a huge amount of debt in the balance sheets of these entities. The irony is that once these companies start caving in under the pressure of these debts/receivables/circular debt, even well-meaning commentators start baying for their blood, describing complete privatization or liquidation of these companies as panacea for the ever-challenging energy sector of the country.

Efforts to downsize ministries, devolve functions to the private sector, and enhance legal reforms are part of a broader strategy to improve governance. Emphasizing competence in the civil service through specialization, merit-based promotions, and mandatory retirements for underperforming officials will contribute to effective governance.

In the face of fiscal constraints, a strategic reallocation of resources, including direct cash transfers to citizens and voucher programmes for underprivileged students, can stimulate equitable economic growth.

These reforms, if diligently implemented, promise a brighter and more hopeful future for Pakistan, positioning it competitively among peer nations and uplifting its citizens from poverty. In the wake of the elections held on 8th February 2024, the nation eagerly awaits the impact of its newly elected political leadership.

With a collective sense of hope, citizens look towards the future, anticipating the implementation of a reform agenda that promises much-needed stability and prosperity. The responsibility lies on the shoulders of the incoming leaders to address pressing issues, foster economic growth, and create a conducive environment for the well-being of the people. As the country enters this new chapter, the expectations are high for the political leadership to deliver on their promises and steer Pakistan towards a brighter and more prosperous future.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Sajid Mehmood Qazi

The writer is a civil servant with deep interest in the oil and gas sector


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Tariq Qurashi Feb 22, 2024 10:22am
A good article. Fixing some of the glaring governance issues in Pakistan is not rocket science, but no government seems to want to actually do the difficult work of carrying out these reforms.
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