The Federal Budget 16-17 announced last year carried a deficit of Rs 4395 billion and reduction of Budget deficit to 3.8% of GDP. Bank borrowing was estimated at Rs 452.9 billion. However things have not been achieved as planned. Nonetheless some notable achievements have been made by the Federal Government during the year in enhancing tax revenues by enlarging tax base, increased investments through better Stock Market as well as higher foreign investments have been made especially in the wake of CPEC.
According the latest data released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, a trade deficit of 17.428 billion dollars (July to January 2016-17) against the comparable figure of the previous year of 13.544 billion dollars – a rise in deficit of 26.68 percent rings alarm bells.
A stage has come whereby loan has to be forward for the payment old loans. The Governments total domestic and foreign borrowings amounted to $ 55 billion during the last three years. Out of the $25 billion in foreign loans, the Federal Government has reportedly obtained $11.95 billions from June 2013 to 2016 to repay previous loans. It is indeed a wake up call for the nation.
A massive reform agenda is vitally needed in the next Federal Budget 17-18 to achieve a drastic turn around in the national economy to achieve high national growth in real terms and get rid of debt ridden national economy at the earliest.
It is highly imperative that the Federal Budget 17-18 is based on Proposals of independent professionals and experts instead of sole reliance on ‘Baboos’ preparing a stereotypical Budget every year, unaware of the imperatives of changed global scenarios of globalization, our mounting public debt, falling exports, and declining home remittances.
Reforms 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.
Agricultural and Industrial Productivity Growth with High Value Addition is the most vital need to add 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. Cost of production needs to be cut through modern technologies. Innovation and technology upgradation are needed in industries and agriculture based on international models.
Administrative Reforms: This is the core area which eats away the effects of all good policies and plans. Bangladesh, on independence, drastically changed the old complex procedures breeding redtapism and corruption. Services reforms based on results achievements and market orientation, are needed to meet the challenges of masses welfare, accountability and freedom from corruption. About forty percent of the budget is wasted through redtape-ism, delayed and costs escalated projects and corruption. This needs drastic reforms.
Massive Industrialisation: Aggressive industrialisation policies are needed to be launched in the SME sectors and large industries focusing on exports orientation. PML-N government in the past launched a rural industrialisation program which needs to be relaunched with an updated approach. This alone would help achieve high growth targets. It would be advisable to set up public sector companies to ensure fast track implementation of the industrialisation programs based on simplified procedures and updated methodologies.
Agricultural Reforms: Agriculture is the mainstay of our economy. On basis of consultation with all stake holders and agricultural experts, comprehensive agriculture reform policies need to be introduced with the following objectives;
a- To achieve higher per acre yields.
b- To improve quality of agricultural products.
c- To boost exports.
d- To introduce new crops.
e- Farmers empowerment and Training.
f- To strengthen the Agriculture Extension Programs to reach the formers effectively.
Intensifying Use of Modern Technologies: Technology advancements are fast modifying public sector, industrial and agricultural methodologies worldwide. Information and communication technologies are playing pivotal role. Resultantly higher efficiencies, costs reduction and value addition in operations are being achieved. More competitiveness is being attained. Research and development activities are enhanced. In Pakistan also, updated technologies and global standards need to be introduced fast.
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. With enhanced economic resources, allocations for education with Public Private Partnerships in this sector can also help boost literacy rate. Economically self reliant nations today have high literacy rates.
Exports: Pakistan’s current exports range between 20-30 billions US$. The focus should be shifted more on value added exports especially for engineering goods and machinery, which have high export potential. Likewise new markets for enhancing exports need to be explored.
Corruption: Corruption eats away a sizeable chunk of our national resources and adversely effect public welfare policies through redtape-ism. It can be checked through Reforms and by using intelligence agencies as well. However honest and good political leadership, efficient accountability framework and effective parliamentary system alone can minimise corruption.
Taxation: Taxation is only one national income resource and not the only measure to boost national income. Too much taxation breeds inflationary spiral as the heavily taxed sections of the society pass it on to the public at large. The tax base should be enlarged and developed to induce voluntary participation through an effective motivational campaign using media and education.
Control of Wasteful and Luxuriant Expenditure in the Public Sector: A Nation gripped by economic crises have to adopt austerity and economical ways to cut wasteful and luxuriant expenses in Govt. and Public sector organisations.
Number of ministries need to be cut and reduced to the minimum. International models of developed democracies need to be followed.
Public Sector Revenues Enhancement – Plugging Leakages: Public Sector revenues including taxes collection and utilities revenues have big leakages badly effecting the targets. In this connection, outsourcing and use of IT, and modern arrangement techniques can help boost revenues. Reform packages in each sector are direly needed. Defence items in exports 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.
Overseas Pakistanis: Overseas Pakistanis remittances are well over US$ fifteen billion per year now. In fact, this alone is sustaining our economy in difficult situations. With good political leadership and a credible system, this can go up. In fact, these remittances can be more productively utilised with proper institutional framework to strength the national economy.
To work out details of the reforms packages mentioned earlier, action plans and implementation strategies, a high level experts group comprising of professionals from the public and private sectors need to be set up the soonest to rid the nation from the ongoing debt trap and save the country from disastrous consequences. All this needs to be built up in the next Federal Budget 2017-18 coupled with effective action plans and monitoring systems.