Prime Minister Imran Khan addressing a gathering while inaugurating Ehsas Kafalat programme at Gallanai in the tribal area revealed that the government would not further enhance prices of electricity and gas noting that the people and industry could not bear further pressure on that account. What he said actually reflected his genuine concern about the difficulties faced by the people in the transitory period for stemming the rot in the economy and his burning desire to provide relief to them. He has already taken multiple initiatives under the umbrella of Ehsas programme for alleviation of poverty. The announcement by the Prime Minister also indicated his confidence in the success of the economic reform agenda of his government.

There is no denying the fact that when PTI came into power it inherited an economy in complete shambles which required herculean effort for its revival and putting it back on the rails. The government had to take some harsh decisions without caring for their political cost. Now that the economy has stabilized, the government can focus on development and transmitting the benefits of the revival of the economy to the lower strata of the society. The turn-around is quite visible as indicated by rise in the foreign remittances and exports which registered 15.3 and 13.6% increase respectively during the month of February, indicating enhanced faith of the Pakistani expatriates in the health of the economy and productive result of the export-led growth strategy of the government.

In view of the foregoing developments one cannot take an exception to what the Prime Minister has said. The economy now can sustain stability in the prices of gas and electricity. This possibility has also been strengthened due to an unexpected development at the global level in the form of a row between Saudi Arabia and Russia over the level of oil production and pricing which has sent the oil prices tumbling down to the extent 30%. Although its impact in conjunction with the consequences of Corona virus is having devastating repercussions for the world economy, it will be a blessing in disguise for Pakistan which is not very much affected by the Corona virus. The stock market showing signs of bouncing back on Tuesday also augurs well for Pakistan.

The fall in the oil prices will surely help Pakistan in overcoming the difficulties in regards to current and fiscal account. Oil imports account for quarter of country’s total imports and it is estimated that Pakistan would be saving $5billion as a result of the decline in the oil prices and according to economists it could culminate in earlier than expected monetary easing. It is pertinent to point out that the current account deficit has already decreased by 70% in the past one year.

This will make it convenient for the government to embark on relief measures for the masses. Lower oil prices will tend to reduce inflation thus raising purchasing power of the consumers with its spill-over effect on other sectors. The reduced oil bill will also enable the government to easily sail through the next review by IMF.

In regards to putting the economy on the path of a sustained economic growth, the contribution of CPEC can hardly be over-emphasized. With the completion of the first phase of projects for infrastructure development and electricity which has given energy security to the country, Pakistan is well poised to embark on its second phase which entails cooperation in the domain of industry, agriculture, social protection, poverty alleviation, science and technology and up-gradation of rail line from Peshawar to Karachi . During this phase the greater emphasis would be on development of special economic zones across the country. The Chinese ambassador to Pakistan while speaking during ‘Dialogue on Industrial and Cooperation under CPEC and SEZs Framework’ organized by the Board of Investment said that the Chinese investors were showing keen interest in the SEZs and during the last six month the private businesses have come into joint ventures of manufacturing tyres, buses, trucks and textile. They were also interested in investing in the SEZs. He also welcomed investments by other countries in those zones.

The second phase of CPEC will facilitate Pakistan’s transition from agricultural economy to the industrial economy which is utmost imperative for kick-starting the process of sustained economic development enabling the country to compete at the global level. The economists believe that CPEC would boost the GDP growth to the extent of 2-3% which by any standards would be a substantial increase. The connectivity provided by the CPEC would make Pakistan regional hub of economic activity accruing perennial benefits to its economy.

It is pertinent to point out that China embarked on the road to the phenomenal growth, development and poverty alleviation due to special economic zones which were established at different locations of the country. It proved a worth emulating model, particularly in view of the priority being given by the PTI government to poverty alleviation and changing fortunes of the people through industrial development and export-led growth strategy. Chinese model goes well with the vision of the Prime Minister for poverty alleviation.

The fact is that China, ever since the two countries established diplomatic relations, has played a pivotal role in the economic development of Pakistan and the friendship between the two has attained eternal character with unfathomable depth. It has always supported Pakistan in difficult situations and was in the forefront to bail her out of the impending economic melt-down when the PTI government was formed. China also allowed duty free import of Pakistan products under the Phase-II of the Free Trade Agreement which led to overall increase in Pakistani exports. The CPEC is an unprecedented initiative of transformational change promising win-win situation for all the stakeholders. It promises a prosperous future for Pakistan and other countries of the region. People should rest assured that bad times were gone forever and god-willing they would be the biggest beneficiary of this mega-economic undertaking.

Malik Muhammad Ashraf

The writer is a freelance columnist.