I, for one, would not like to be in Mr Nawaz Sharif’s shoes, for the burden that he now carries is both monstrous as well as unrewarding. He and his finance team have inherited an empty treasury, rampant inflation, power and gas shortfalls and an abominable law and order situation that continues to keep investors at bay. The first and immediate issue facing the government is to generate funds and reduce unnecessary spending. There are only three ways that funds can be generated directly and indirectly. The direct method means more borrowing from international sources and increased taxation, while the indirect approach seeks foreign investment. The newly-elected regime appears to have chosen all three options. The recent loan agreement with IMF, the tax clauses in the budget and the PM’s successful visit to China are indicators to that end. The latest borrowing from IMF was apparently an emergency measure so as not to default on payments. While not desirable, it is being justified by the Finance Ministry as something that was unavoidable. It is, however, the increased taxation, that has begun to generate an adverse reaction, as its trickle down effects become visible. The silver lining in this economic mess comes from the Chinese visit, which, in my opinion, was a wise move. Investment by the Chinese corporate sector (as and when it materialises) and waiver of security related guarantees is likely to have broad based mitigating effects on the economic situation in the long-term.While governments facing such situations anywhere in the world do whatever they consider best for the country (which cannot be said for the recently concluded stint of the Pakistan Peoples Party), the most critical element in any economic recovery is the people. Pulling back from the brink of disaster and beginning the arduous journey to prosperity requires great sacrifices from the nation. What every Pakistani needs to understand is that they will have to girdle themselves and run the gauntlet with fortitude and a very high degree of tolerance. While the real source of national power, i.e. the middle and lower middle classes, may willy-nilly rise to the occasion and the poverty-stricken may have no option, it is the elite ‘luxuriating amidst their plenty’ who must be made to give up a part of their wealth by ruthlessly bringing them into the tax net, so that the country may see better days. This, however, is easier said than done, for our historical experience is to the contrary.I often have heated discussions with my peers on how to define poverty. Even our government appears confused on this basic piece of data with the result that our poverty line keeps shifting up and down. It was somewhere in the 1990s that while doing field research for my thesis on ‘the type of political system suitable to Pakistan’s national psyche’, I walked up to a ganderi seller in Rawalpindi. The man operated his business from a hand pushed cart and was attired poorly. He was first reluctant to talk to me, but I managed to convince him that I was not from the municipality, out to remove an encroachment. The man had a wife, a daughter and two teenage sons. He lived in a two-roomed pukka house built on government land somewhere near Dhamial. His electricity came from an illegally hooked up connection and water from a damaged pipeline. His wife and daughter stitched clothes, while his sons worked as mechanics in a workshop. I aggregated his minimum monthly income to around Rs 20,000 (this was the year 1994) and no tax or utility bills liability. Would this person be above or below the poverty line is a point to ponder.I am not an economist, nor do I lay claim to financial wizardry. I am someone, who looks at things from a simple perspective of effects - effects like affordable groceries, manageable utility bills, cheap transportation and fuel, and efficient and inexpensive healthcare. When will this become possible is anybody’s guess.

The writer is a freelance columnist.