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Pakistan’s Economic Outlook: Fragility And Uncertainty Rule By

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Shan Saeed writes about the strategic macro factors on which the government can focus to turn the economy around and create an environment conducive to economic growth and investment.

The cost of policy uncertainty runs very high in our country. I am based in the Asia Pacific, but my heart still beats with the Pakistani masses in general. Pakistan can make a turnaround, provided we maintain political stability and economic confidence. At the moment, it looks like a long shot. Prime Minister Imran Khan wants to take the country forward with all his sincerity and dedication. He is playing his cards very well. The equation between PM Imran Khan and COAS General Bajwa works well for the current regime. However, our corrupt and immature politicians are making it arduous for him to move forward economically.

I am totally crestfallen when I see these corrupt politicians – opposition members – who are not returning the looted amount back to the government treasury.

Our eastern and western borders are threatened by hostile enemies who are trying to corner us. FATF has become a political tool for India to punish Pakistan, which is obvious to the whole world.

Many international organisations are losing their credibility like the FATF, rating agencies and many global banks. The question on everyone’s mind? How to get out of the present quagmire and political conundrum. Your guess is as good as mine. I have thought of a few strategic variables that can contribute to Pakistan’s economic success in the next 3-5 years. There are certain strategic macro factors, a focus on which could bring economic confidence back in Pakistan.

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Improving the political environment

The government should be tougher with these corrupt platoons of politicians and recover the funds from them. Their financial assets should be seized through court orders. Global investors prefer investing in those countries which try to get black and corrupt money from the politicians. The government must get rid of incompetent advisers and lay off the deadwoods from the cabinet.

Engendering economic confidence

The government should strive to bring the local investors on the table and formulate a strategy on how to kickstart the economy. It should get their insights and support in order to put the economy back on track, which currently lacks economic confidence, credibility and integrity. Teams of professionals with global repute and credibility should be formed, who would share their strategic insights. A council of eminent people with strong credibility in the market is needed.

Focusing on technology

In the next 5-10 years, a tech savvy labour force will drive the economic growth of the countries. The biggest advantage we have is our demographics, which can bolster economic progression. We can learn so much from China, and the Chinese are also willing to help us in the technology sector.

Moreover, women education can change the economy’s destiny. We must get women educated in order to change the economic destiny of the country.

Female education can take Pakistan forward to the next level of economic progression. South Korea, Japan, Singapore, UAE, Turkey, Poland, Malaysia used the same strategy to aid the progression of their economies.

Turning around state owned enterprises

The government should engage the Pakistan Army for a short term and ask them to install their capable people in state owned enterprises to make a turnaround with 2-3 year targets. In 1992, Pakistan Steel was turned around by Lt Gen Sabeeh Qammaruzman, the founder of The Citizen Foundation,  in a record 24 months.

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The current leadership of PIA is absolutely remarkable. PIA is the model case study of competence and smart leadership at the top. Pakistan Railways is showing results along with WAPDA and Post Office. 

A way for the Post Office to progress further would be to aggressively move into the e-commerce sector to benefit from the current trends.

Reducing taxes to bring foreign direct investment

The best strategy to increase the tax-to-GDP ratio is by increasing the size of GDP [Income level]. This idea was coined by Dr Hafeez Pasha, who holds a doctorate from Stanford University and is the current president of Beaconhouse National University. The government should consider taking his ideas to bring about tax reforms. At the moment, the government needs smart people, not parasites.

In the end, I can hope that people like me, who live abroad, and many others, continue to pray and strive for the country’s success. Insha Allah, one day Pakistan can join the ranks of developed countries and will be economically strong, socially vibrant and politically mature. Is this just a dream? I believe it is possible and we can contribute to making Pakistan a rising nation again.

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