Kudos to our Prime Minister for announcing to establish a spiritual/science university. Yet we need to guard against Sufism (metaphysics) `passed down through the centuries in khanqahs and dargahs with material or social sciences’. Reports in EU and other economic magazines have made grim forecasts about our economic health. We need to shun populist promises and address bitter fiscal challenges. The fiscal account deficit swelled to about 5.4% and current-account deficit to 5.8% of GDP in 2018, compared with 5.2% and 3.9% of GDP on average in 2016‑17.

Hostile reports predict Pakistan is in for a crisis like the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka had to hand over the port to China on a 99-year lease for the latter to recoup the amortisation and interest equivalent on Chinese $8 billion loan at 6 per cent per annum interest.

China is portrayed as a hegemon like the IMF. During a recent visit to Pakistan, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared, “Make no mistake: we will be watching what the IMF does. There’s no rationale for IMF tax dollars—and associated with that, American dollars that are part of the IMF funding—for those to go to bail out Chinese bondholders or China itself.”

It is unfortunate that many countries got rid of IMF strings. But, Pakistan couldn’t. Russia paid back its Soviet era debt of $22 billion by first rescheduling its debt of about $20 billion due to the Iran-Iraq war. Argentina also unshackled the debt. . China relied on its own resources for development with focus on self-reliance and human resource development.

Till 1958, Pakistan had no external debt. We led simple, austere, and honest lives: no air conditioners, refrigerators, etc. Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan did not live in a 300-kanal, and 10 marla house. Nor did he wear a `Meteoris’ wrist-watch, worth about Rs460m. Though a nawab, he announced not to build his own house until every Pakistani was sheltered

Pakistan availed 12 IMF programmes, as compared with one for India, three for Bangladesh and two for Sri Lanka. Eleven out of the 12 programmes were stalled midway. The coveted IMF bailout may linger on until year end.

Aside from spiritualism we need to cast a closer look on our economy (imports, trade deficits, debts, and so on).

MALIK A. JAAVD,

Rawalpindi, May 8.