EDITORIAL: Perhaps the prime minister could have, rather should have, prepared a better pitch for Pakistan’s credentials as an investment destination than piling up all the dirty laundry in front of the world’s business elite at the World Economic Forum in Saudi Arabia.

For example, it’s true that our “power sector is in a shambles”, riddled with unchecked theft and unfair dole outs, our “revenue sector is in tatters”, and we lose four times as much as we receive through completely unnecessary and unacceptable leakages; as he enlightened everybody at the forum.

But serious investors would already know all that through their due diligence and risk management reports. They would, rather, be interested in knowing what steps have been taken to check the theft and reverse the dole outs and make the sector attractive for them. That, unfortunately, is where the PM had little but the same old rhetoric about “austerity” and “deep-rooted structural reforms” that everybody has already grown tired of.

Heads of state know, of course, that the proof of the pudding always lies in the eating, and serious money never commits itself anywhere without the prospect of solid returns. But the Pakistani government hasn’t done the kind of homework to interest foreign investors even remotely. The power sector, like so many others, has been the very definition of fraudulent deals, corruption, theft and downright incompetence for decades, yet there have been no reforms even as the circular debt ballooned to trillions of rupees.

It seems the leadership still believes that lavishing traditional donors like the Saudis with praise – as he did, appreciating that “a friend in need is a friend indeed” – will suffice to keep them throwing money into the black hole that he presented the Pakistani economy as. But those days are gone. It’s been a while since the Saudis and Emiratis tied any further financial help to active IMF support; even froze their investments when the last EFF (Extended Fund Facility) stalled halfway.

Now, after the PM’s show at the WEF, a number of observers are left scratching their heads, wondering if he didn’t go through all the trouble just to list down all the reasons for investors not to come to Pakistan. There’s also the widespread worry that he won’t exactly get cracking on any serious reforms upon his return, instead he’d be consumed by the political drama going on in Islamabad, the unending tug of war between politicians and kingmakers that has nothing to do with the problems and concerns of the common man and/or the economy.

The hard truth is that Pakistan desperately needs foreign investment. But none will come till the rhetoric about reforms turns into reality long enough to attract and impress serious money. And nothing good will ever come from crying about our local problems to outsiders, especially when the government is part of the problem and wants others to provide solutions.

It’s unfortunate that if the PM’s outing betrayed one thing to global investors, it’s that the Pakistani government still hasn’t got the ball rolling on reforms, without which no progress can be made.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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KU May 07, 2024 11:03am
When unqualified statesmen are advised the ill-use of reverse psychology, it only ends up as a joke and an embarrassment. This is the pitfall of keeping court jesters as advisors.
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Pakistani May 07, 2024 11:18am
Global events cost lot of money and attract huge audiences. This opportunity has to be used productively for the benefit. of the country. It was sad to see the PMs hurting the country's image in it.
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Az_Iz May 07, 2024 05:20pm
All this is so true.Just crying about the issues in front of global audience and patting on the friend's back will not bring investment.Politicians need to act & deliver results which are long overdue
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zh May 07, 2024 09:07pm
Mr Shehbaz Sharif has limited capabilities. He is incapable of thinking outside the box and completely lacks vision.
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Arsalan May 09, 2024 02:43am
@Pakistani, n the reason Pakistan is in a mess is these people themselves. How ironic that they now they admit but still want to be in power too
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