Prime Minister Imran Khan, in his address to the Nation on August 19, 2018 highlighted the state of national economy especially the national external debt amounting to US $ 95 billion. The current account deficit has widened to US $ 18 billion rising from $ 12.6 billion from last fiscal year. External debt servicing has become a serious problem. A short term way out other than the international donors is the overseas Pakistanis potential which can be tapped with a prudent approach.
Likewise the circular debt, in domestic economy has reached around 1-2 trillion rupees. All this calls for fast track out of box solutions for the national economy. A non-bureaucratic task force needs to be set up comprising of independent experts to meet the economic challenges.
An immediate solution is top Overseas Pakistanis cooperation effectively Special Investment bonds may be issued for Overseas Pakistanis with targets of sale to be given to Pakistan Embassies. These should be launched immediately & the sale may be completed within two months.
Another short term redeeming measure is to cut unnecessary imports to relieve the rising trade deficit.
It is highly imperative to put the national economy on a high economic growth path in real terms based on actual and advanced productivity trajectory in each sector of the national economy. The following parameters will have to be addressed through massive reforms, coupled with short term and long term action plans free of “babu culture” and with a strong political will at the top to implement them. These factors alone can generate real wealth for the national economy to pay off the current public debt liabilities in a few years and make Pakistan economically self-reliant in the very near future.
No policy or reforms package can be implemented with effective results without following PDCA cycle or called Deming cycle. All policies must have an effective implementation & follow up action plans to monitor results.
‘Babu Culture’: This is the core area that eats away the effects of all good policies and plans. Bangladesh, on independence, drastically changed the old complex procedures breeding red-tapism and corruption. Services reforms based on results achievements and market orientation, are needed to meet the challenges of public welfare, accountability and freedom from corruption. About forty percent of the budget is wasted through red-tapism, delayed and costs escalated projects and corruption. This needs drastic reforms.
Agricultural and industrial productivity growth: This aided with high value addition is the most vital need to add real national wealth. Fast track GDP growth strategies and implementation plans are sine qua non to high growth targets achievements. In this connection, the roles of agricultural and industrial productivity indices are very vital. Presently these parameters are very low in our national economy. This requires necessary reforms package and pragmatic policies to enhance productivity levels in agriculture and industry. The present National Productivity Organisation needs to be overhauled, strengthened and reorganised professionally. Cost of production needs to be cut through modern technologies. Innovation and technology up-gradation are needed, based on international models. Research and Development plays a massive role in boosting industrial and agricultural productivity.
Mass industrialisation: Aggressive industrialisation policies are needed to be launched in the SME sectors and large industries focusing on exports orientation. This alone would help achieve high growth targets. It would be advisable to set up public sector companies to ensure the fast track implementation of industrialisation programs based on simplified procedures and updated methodologies.
Corruption: Corruption eats away a sizeable chunk of our national resources and adversely affects public welfare policies through red-tapism. It can be checked through reforms and by using intelligence agencies as well. However honest and good political leadership, efficient accountability framework and an effective parliamentary system alone can minimise corruption.
Agricultural Reforms: Agriculture is the mainstay of our economy. On the basis of consultation with all stake holders and agricultural experts, comprehensive agriculture Reforms Policies need to be introduced with the following objectives; to achieve higher per acre yields, to improve quality of agricultural products, to boost exports, to introduce new crops, farmer empowerment and training, and to strengthen the Agriculture Extension Programs so that they reach the farmers effectively.
Control of wasteful expenditure: Nations gripped by economic crises have to adopt austerity and economical ways to cut wasteful and luxuriant expenses in government and public sector organisations. The number of ministries needs to be cut and reduced to the minimum. International models of developed democracies need to be followed.
Intensifying use of modern technologies: Technology advancements are fast modifying public sector, industrial and agricultural methodologies worldwide. Information and communication technologies are playing a pivotal role. Resultantly higher efficiencies, costs reduction and value addition in operations are being achieved. In Pakistan also, updated technologies, new organisation and management methods and global standards need to be introduced fast to achieve higher national growth in each sector of national economy our public sector. Our R&D organisations have so far failed to achieve market driven and needed results in the absence of public private partnership.
Education and literacy: High literacy rate and education spread at least up to Higher Secondary levels is key to long term growth and strong economy. Enhanced economic resources, allocations for education and Public Private Partnerships in this sector can help boost literacy rates. Economically self-reliant nations today have high literacy rates.
Exports: Pakistan’s current exports levels are going down. Focus should be shifted more on value-added exports especially for the engineering goods and machinery, which has high export potential. Likewise new markets for enhancing exports need to be explored. Defence items can achieve high export targets. With good planning and efforts, Pakistan can achieve an export target of fifty billion US$ per year in a short time.
Likewise skilled Pakistani workers should be sent to friendly countries more and more to enhance overseas Pakistanis remittances.
The writer is former Adviser Federal Inspection Commission Govt. of Pakistan & currently Chairman Standing Committee, Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry. He is a graduate in Law & Engineering.