The environmental scientists seem to have gone back in time in a way that they have rekindled a discussion, till recently considered as closed and shut, on how to measure and interpret ‘time’.

While the present time-framework system is working fine for the daily requirements of an average person, they argue that with certain issues like global warming, the subsequent melting of glaciers and the maintenance of nature’s environmental balance being so crucial to the very survival of mankind, these types of time phenomenon need to be measured by assigning them factors of ‘importance’ and an ‘under root’ in order to reduce their lag time to a score that bears real time relevance to the average human life.

For example, one may not be too alarmed if one was told that the Antarctica ice will reduce by nearly 3 percent by 2015 and 20 percent by the end of the century. But if interpreted that by 2015 one’s heating and air-conditioning bills would double due to extreme weather conditions or one’s insurance costs will increase manifolds owing to higher risks on natural disasters, the warning may very well be received more seriously. Further, five minutes in the overall context of human life may appear insignificant, but if those five minutes represent a time period upon which hinges the consumption of a tasty cone ice cream (before it melts) in the sweltering June heat of Lahore, the marginal importance of these five minutes may just rise to a level where they become ‘invaluable’.

The Pakistani economy is also at present going through a very critical stage where there is a lot of heat with regard to a failing energy situation, crumbling institutions (most recent alarming news coming from PSO quarters), dwindling investment, declining exports, under pressure Pak Rupee, worsening external reserves position, etc; and whereas, 90 days in context of history of nations may appear to be insignificant, but in the present-day economic scenario of Pakistan these 90 days bear huge responsibility of serious significance to the nation. The ineffectiveness and incompetence in the economic spheres, even in this short period of time, can have far-reaching effects.

Economic situations are not stagnant and, therefore, in economic management there is no room for stop-gap or caretaking or interim, since the economic activity chain is not only continuous, but also interlinked where decisions cannot be put on hold. The prime example of this notion can be found in Pakistan’s need to act quickly in trying to get the ‘GSP Plus’ status from the EU from January 2014 and beyond.

In this regard, the time to move ahead by proactively engaging the EU, taking all the stakeholders on board and for undertaking all the necessary internal and external measures is now; if left to the next government, it will be too late to meet the application deadline and the country will be deprived of capitalising on a rare opportunity for attaining a duty-free and quota-free access to the lucrative EU markets for the next eight years.

The export-led growth has become the new buzzword in the economic manifestos of nearly all political parties, which is fine since the endeavour draws more strength from manpower competitiveness than capital deployment and is ideally suited for countries like Pakistan. But to make it happen requires governmental commitment, visionary leadership, a national obsession with exports per se and successfully availing any market access opportunities that come our way in the highly competitive present-day global trading environment. The EU being our single largest export market, qualifying for the ‘GSP Plus’ would be the ideal boost for Pakistan’s industry, both to get a level playing field against less developed countries like Bangladesh, Jordon, Kenya, Sri Lanka, etc, and to get a definite edge against other competitors such as India, Turkey and China.

Ironically, Pakistan is not just lagging behind in properly applying for this EU scheme, but has yet to assemble a competent team (by involving key stakeholders) to negotiate with the EU on this; a process that entails an approximate lead time of six months by the EU to fully evaluate an application - given that we are already in the second half of April, there is not much time remaining.

As mentioned above, if Pakistan qualifies for ‘GSP Plus’, which involves its ratification of 27 international conventions, it will be able to export most of its products to the EU in a duty-free and quota-free manner. While we have already qualified on the ‘vulnerability criterion’, which basically qualifies us to seek the ‘GSP Plus’ status in the first place and have also signed and ratified 25 conventions out of the 27, on human rights, labour rights, environment, governance and others, it is a bit strange that our Ministry of Commerce has yet to submit an application on the remaining two - climate and corruption.

What is important to remember here is that the EU will not grant us this status on mere submission of these two remaining applications, but the process will take its full course after we complete all pre-requisites. Specific conditions will have to be met by us before the grant of this status and our commitment on the respect of labour, human, environment and good governance aspects will be closely monitored by them. The real apprehension, however, is not on how the EU will behave, but that Pakistan may not be successful in getting the ‘GSP Plus’ status mainly due to the weak coordination between its government functionaries, i.e. Ministries of Commerce, Textile, Foreign Affairs, Law, etc., and also owing to the sheer incompetence of the personnel put in-charge for successfully negotiating this important facility for enhancing Pakistani exports.

It may be convenient for the caretaker government functionaries to hide behind the cloak of their clichéd mandate of basically ensuring free and fair polls in the country. Nevertheless, the reality remains that in their hands have been given the reins of the country for nearly three months and in this period, there are lives of 180 million Pakistanis to be governed and their interests protected (both social and economic). More importantly, while on the job, it is their duty to ensure that institutional and national harmony is maintained in this critical run-up period to the elections, and this is where they will be required to display their full leadership qualities and competence to govern.

For instance, the prevailing energy impasse touches raw nerves and requires deft handling by them in order to ensure national unity/harmony by taking care that the burden of loadshedding is not unfairly borne by any one province, the security cum law and order situation continues to pose a challenge and care needs to be taken that instead of supporting the custodians of our internal and external peace, we do not end up demoralising them.

Last but not least, it is part of their duty to see to it that during their tenure the economic activity does not get derailed and that the wheel of the industry keeps turning. Tough ask, but assuming the responsibility of governance is a holistic responsibility and not one with a ‘limited’ liability. So far under their stewardship there has been a lot of noise about the proverbial ‘high moral ground’, but the litmus test will come when the principle may need to be applied on one’s own failures.

The writer is an entrepreneur and economic analyst.