Sustainable growth eludes country | The Express Tribune


In a stark warning to all the vested interest groups that have over the years brought Pakistan to its knees, Deputy Finance Minister Dr Ayesha Pasha declared on Wednesday that the country would not be the same “if we do not urgently change our course”.

The warning came amid increasing competition among all vested interest groups to seek tax cuts or increase their share in expenditures in total disregard to the default fears.

The race to get a bigger share has intensified, as the government is set to announce a new budget on June 10.

“Pakistan is in such a critical time that if we continue with our path, we will not have Pakistan that we have right now,” she said.

Minister of State for Finance Dr Ayesha Pasha was speaking at a conference organised by the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics.

PIDE arranged the event to share the studies conducted from the platform of RASTA (Research for Social Transformation and Advancement).

The minister of state was not just scared but as an economist indicated where the country was heading.

She confessed that the path of sustained economic growth was a far cry as at the moment stabilisation could not be undertaken properly.

When Pasha was delivering her speech, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail was holding one after another meeting with various groups that came to seek tax cuts – farmers wanted an end to sales tax and telecommunication firms sought a cut in withholding tax rates.

A day earlier, the industrialists also met with the finance minister and sought the continuation of their energy subsidies. Many of them use expensive cars and some private jets, which the majority of Pakistanis can only dream of.

On the one hand, the industrialists and businessmen are seeking tax benefits and on the other, the politicians are fighting to bring each other down with no care for the country’s future.

In the prevailing economic situation, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif talked about the Charter of Economy, and until and unless the structural reforms were depoliticised, the country could not go forward, cautioned the minister of state.

In the existing situation of continuous point-scoring, no political party had the courage to take the right decision, she added.

Pasha said all those who benefited in the past must realise that there was no more room for rent-seeking.

“We have politicised the economy up to such an extent that it is a disservice to the economy and the country. No government can bring proper structural reforms simply because of politicisation,” she added.

“Till we continue to do this, we will never be able to undertake proper structural reforms,” she added.

She said that Pakistan was dependent upon the IMF bailout package because the policymakers did not put the house in order.

“When we put our things in order, we will not accept any dictation. But now when we go to the IMF, we possess such a small degree of freedom where we cannot negotiate well with the IMF mainly because our house is not in order,” she added.

This challenge, she said, could be converted into an opportunity. “We need help from the media, civil society, and opinion-makers. This is a critical time and it should be converted into an opportunity and put ourselves in the right kind of frame for such structural reforms that can put Pakistan on the path of moving towards self-reliance.”

She said that whatever resources the country possessed at federal or provincial levels, those should be utilised effectively and in a transparent manner. “The better use of existing resources is a major challenge as these cannot be utilised effectively,” she added.

Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal also spoke at RASTA’s second conference. He too said that Pakistan could no more afford to misdirect and misspend meagre resources.

The planning minister said “we must ponder over why we have not been able to make progress since independence in 1947. It seems we have come to a full circle and have come back to the situation from where we started in 1947.”

The minister reiterated the importance of political stability and continuity of policy for the economic development of Pakistan.­­

Published in The Express Tribune, June 2nd, 2022.

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