When the chips are down state intervention becomes imminent. In the current corona pandemic, all eyes are focused on the Prime Minister (PM). There are serious concerns about the post-corona economy. My friend, Dr Kamal Monnoo the economist, has written in detail about what needs to be done. His article titled; “COVID-19; economic fallouts and solutions” was published in the Nation of March 25, 2020. He has written about the shattered myth of Anglo-Saxon business integrity where ‘force majeure’ has been invoked and agreements, contracts, orders have been conveniently reneged. Kamal meticulously elaborated on a 17-point solution to address the economic fallout.

With every threat, there is an opportunity. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan has had limited periods of nation-building under genuinely elected governments (from 1947 to 1958 and 1971 to 1977). Since July 05,1977 the slide downwards has continued unabated. The stalled process of nation building has to be started all over again based on inclusion not exclusion of the masses.

Now that state resources are being sought for waivers and relief, past mistakes should not be repeated. Focus should be on health, food security and employment. Concentration of wealth in a few hands has to be avoided at all costs. The Ayub model of unbridled capitalism or the socialist approach of Bhutto should not be repeated. Perhaps a democratic welfare state is our best option to build the nation instead of creating empires and fiefdoms. The PM has always been supportive of such a state, now he has an opportunity to create one as the government has to decide on the utilisation of state revenue.

Assets of the nation need to be turned around in the shortest possible time. State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) like the steel mills and the machine tool factory etc have been lying idle. These entities were once profitable when managed by professionals and overseen by the Board of Industrial Management (BIM). Professional management and independent boards should be assigned the task of reviving these entities which can then be privatised at top value. Bureaucrats are neither trained nor qualified to run these plants.

Thousands of approved jobs are lying vacant which must be filled within 90 days. Railway workshops were once the pride of the nation. Refurbishing of locomotives and fabrication of saloons and bogies was done in-house. Through self-reliance we must learn to conserve foreign exchange and rely on local expertise.

Imports have to be slashed and exports enhanced. The party for kickback mafias should be over. Our fuel and energy costs are too high which need to be renegotiated to end the menace of circular debt. The cost of imported LNG is prohibitive. Now that coal mining has started at Thar, we should adopt clean coal technologies to meet our energy needs.

The strength of the Chinese economy stems from state control of resources which are then spent on infrastructure development and facilities for the people. The private sector is allowed to operate but in partnership to avoid exploitation. In the Ayub model the resources of the nation came in control of 22 families, they owned everything; industries, banks and insurance companies. Loans were doled out to favourites as free money, which has now accumulated over time. There has to be a moratorium on national debt servicing together with write-offs.

In the seventies, basic industrialisation was carried out in the public sector. Huge investments were made in defence production area around Islamabad which remains under-utilised. The Pakistan Ordinance Factory, (POF) Wah has been tasked to make face masks to fight the virus. It is time to apply and commercialise our technologies to cut back the import bill. We can manufacture aircrafts and tanks but have to import commercial products like bicycles, motorbikes and rickshaws etc.

Dr Mahbub-ul Haq the architect of the Ayub Economic Model admitted that the expected trickle down never took place. This time around, the wheels of development must turn for the entire nation, not just for a selected few. Nation building should be the top priority of the government as was done in the decades of the fifties and seventies. The boom that followed in the sixties and eighties was a result of these efforts by the elected representatives of the people.

In 1958 dictatorship detracked our march to glory. After fifty years an elected government is in place led by a credible leader. Now that a fresh start has been made at rebuilding the economy, I am sure past mistakes will be avoided. Focus should be on the masses not the classes. PTI is a genuine political outfit that enjoys grass root support unlike the fabricated leadership of the past that was repeatedly imposed on the nation in the decades of the sixties, eighties and nineties. The post-corona period will be critical for the economy which calls for careful and austere use of the nation’s resources. After all, old and tried approaches have failed to deliver, an Islamic welfare state seems to be our best option.

Dr. Farid A Malik

The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation.

email: fmaliks@hotmail.com