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The energy sector needs significant investment in refinery, petrochemical, oil and gas storages and transmission pipelines to ensure energy security of the country.

Furthermore, transmission, distribution and generation also require upgrade for cost-efficient generation and regional connectivity.

Not to forget dwindling energy reserves require Thar coal gasification, off/onshore drilling and ML-1 for cost effective supply chain, including a link with our neighbours.

Ending hopium—II

Economic diplomacy, built on local priorities keeping in perspective regional cooperation, needs aggregation and measures aimed at aggressively undertaking them to deliver our energy and economic security with focus on making Pakistan relevant once again. This requires a vision, patient undertaking and extended planning.

But this cannot happen without becoming an FDI destination of choice, courts honouring contracts and dispensing timely judgements, availability of skilled workforce, an integrated approach that was envisaged under MoE (ministry of energy) but has been reverted back, encouragement of down-to-up approach for governance improvement by a determined leadership.

The dent caused by restrictions on imports and repatriation of capital necessitates massive confidence building and urgent fiscal deficit management. Without improving perception and making paradigm changes to ground realities, we will continue to be bypassed and regularly miss opportunities that possibly could come our way.

Reports of assurance to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to not allocate additional budget of Rs493 billion for China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) does not help and hope is not going forward in next year budget.

As a result, there is no significant venture capital or project funding available. Sinosure, Gulf countries and bilateral funds sitting on the fence awaiting policy reforms and improvements, yet SOEs (state-owned enterprises) bleed, circular debt reduction is a containment effort, SEZs (special economic zones) are real estate business opportunity, agriculture, cottage industry SMEs and IT continue to seek a holding hand and tourism industry clueless.

Ending hopium—I

The slogan that government has no business to do business has to be squarely laid out, taxing the untaxed, deregulation becoming a norm, SEZs focused on Semiconductor development. Export through relocated industry, IT and engineering can only happen by ensuring ease of doing business and our entrepreneurs changing mindset of rent seeking, subsidies, retaining proceeds outside country, developing human resource by paying them live-able wages.

We know this to be a hard task but one essential and without which P3P, privatization, revival of SOEs, independent regulators will not happen. Nor will integrated planning occur or a rolling 15-year strategy evolve, redefining our governance will take place or an accountability process that encourages out of box approaches be ensured with a mindset that believes in a competitive environment and profit making being kosher and discourages culture of subsidies.

There is no shortcut and the situation requires patience, collaboration, team effort, focus and across-the-board commitment of leadership to take the painful steps and starting anew. Nor is there the proverbial magic wand!

Transition meeting between the caretakers and new government is a positive development and will facilitate continuity of policy.

We all agree that Pakistan requires a reset; and change is difficult and comparable to mating of elephants. Our “debating clubs” on WhatsApp and electronic media need to move forward to solutions, forget the past “wrong” policies and look at carving out ‘Pakistan2047’ into a nation we wanted it to be.

That starts with the PM ensuring a merit-based governance and Justice system adhering to a “new/updated” Constitution focused on “Pakistan First’’ mantra and rights of 340 million population in 2047 with layers of Parliament, Local Bodies, Assemblies, Divisions optimized, consideration of direct election of President, Governors, Prime Minister to encourage an accountable form of lean government with reduced overheads currently burdening our budget, a strong federation-based relationship, including revisiting NFC (National Finance Commission) award, ensuring a competitive and deregulated business environment delivering a 7-9% yearly growth.

Cabinet not being paid salary is poor optics and does not help the cause of inducting talent nor is leadership a charitable service.

The PM bogged down by chairing NSC, Inter-Ministerial Economic Committee, etc., will lose focus; instead with SIFC (Special Investment Facilitation Council) undertake integrated planning with a National Development and Reform (NDR) function to define national strategy with Cabinet owning detailed ministerial time- based action plans whose progress is reported by a PMU under AGP reporting status to SIFC and not PAC. AGP needs to play its role to facilitate process improvements and not produce volumes of paras.

A lean government requires consolidation of roles of Commerce and Industry, Exports, BOI, Maritime Affairs, Railways and Communication, Science and Technology, IT and Education, Energy, Defence Industry, Foreign Affairs, Agriculture and Planning Commission under NDR headed by a Deputy PM/Senior Minister.

Another Deputy PM/Senior Minister having reporting of Defence, Interior, Finance and Revenue, Law and Parliamentary Affairs, Religious Affairs merged with Population Planning Inter Provincial Affairs, Cabinet and Establishment Divisions, SOEs.

Both report to PM.

Individual ministries mandate is to ensure ease of business and processes, defining targets with objective of delivering more than the sum under a structure ideally of a technocrat minister assisted by domain experts from industry on deputation or externally hired, consulting with sectorial think tanks to evolve policy (instead only by industry today) and executing approaches to reduce role of Government by undertaking disruptive measures.

An elected MoS reporting to minister, should be the spokesperson on policy and ensuring implementation thru Secretary who has to have at least 10 years domain expertise.

Our unsustainable economy is challenging our survival and requires measures.

  • MoFE&PT (ministry of federal education and professional training), MoRA (ministry of religious affairs and interfaith harmony) and MoNHSR&C (ministry of national health services, regulations and coordination) define the implementation of an education roadmap utilizing 4.5% of GDP vs 2.38% over next 20 years to provide analytical ability and skills for facilitating investment in energy, industry, medical, IT and hospitality industries, export of surplus skilled and unskilled -labour, farmers, nurses, doctors, technicians, engineers and computer science graduates to Gulf and the West.

Our focus is not to be only in ensuring quota for Pakistan in skilled and unskilled labour for the development of NEOM City but filling in demographic limitations of the EU.

Continuing challenge of low employability of Higher Education Institution (HEI) graduates and yet enrollment is increasing. Before 2002 HEIs were delivering 200,000 undergraduates and by end of that decade there were 2,000,000, of which 31% of students were unemployed with 51% being women. This continues to be our “Achilles’ heel”.

HEIs’ lack of market orientation is hurting entrepreneurship. They are not providing skills of problem solving, creativity, critical thinking, effective writing and speaking ability nor individual grooming or instilling work ethics and values.

(To be continued)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Sheikh Imran Ul Haque

The author has served as Managing Director of Pakistan State Oil (PSO) and CEO of EETL, EVTL, and ETPL. He can be contacted at [email protected]


Comments are closed.

Cool Apr 19, 2024 11:56am
Dollar indexation and imported fuel is going to force people leave the grid why this writer is not willing to see this problem?
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KU Apr 19, 2024 03:22pm
Our problems seems to have a solution in free economic activity, rational taxes, without any influence by public sector. The economic road-block setup by Raj must be broken, n corrupt sent to jail.
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