The government’s first year in power can only be seen as a failure on the economic front, as the country witnessed a record high for the fiscal deficit of the country, which stood at 8.9 percent of total GDP in the 2018-2019 financial year. With the total deficit rising by more than Rs 1 trillion in just one year – now standing at Rs 3.445 trillion compared to last year’s Rs 2.26 trillion – the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government can no longer blame previous governments or opposition parties; this mess is one that they have made themselves.

In fairness, some of the government’s decisions are understandable; the IMF bailout programme backed Pakistan into a corner with regards to economic policy. However, all we have seen from the ruling party so far, are attempts to plug holes in the system without any real plan on how to improve the country’s fortunes in the long run. There is no long-term monetary plan, no attempts to boost specific industries and the government seems driven in undoing the projects implemented by previous governments as well. The lack of focus on CPEC and the investigation regarding LNG supply to the country are only two examples.

One thing that this deficit has made clear, is that the government’s austerity measures have all but failed. In absolute terms, total expenditure for this year has increased compared to last year, and in real terms, the government has not managed to cut on its spending even though it has constantly claimed otherwise. All of the government’s proposed solutions, from cutting salaries of ministers to auctioning off vehicles allotted to the Prime Minister’s office have been ineffective in cutting government spending, while real expenditures continue to increase. The government might be able to deceive its support base with lofty promises and surface-level adjustments, but the numbers do not lie and the government’s failure is now visible for all to see.

Being unable to fix an issue is one thing; making the problem worse is something else entirely. There are legitimate fears of the government exacerbating the crisis by cutting on spending and disincentivising more private spending by artificially contracting the economy. The country will continue to rack up dismal growth figures until the government takes a proactive effort in increasing opportunities for economic growth. With revenues stagnant and expenditures rising, the government’s lack of initiative on financial matters has led to steady decline of the economy over the past year, with four years left on the current tenure, one can only hope that the ruling party does not make things much worse, although the numbers indicate that only harder times lie ahead.