In all honesty, the Article IV discussions of the Pak economic team with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) went quite well in Dubai last week. We saw an IMF that was much more accommodative of Pakistans needs and ground realities, and a Pak team that in addition to engaging the IMF took time out to listen to varying points of view from leading economists and businessmen. On their part, the IMF representatives tried to drill home that the global economic situation at present is facing major changes cum challenges and Pakistan needs to adjust accordingly since its economy is already facing a serious downturn. According to them, unless we can address our issues on energy, fiscal growth and banking per se, and overcome the declining trend in investment, we would not be able to meaningfully move forward on the economic front. That our economy faced some critical short-term issues, which ironically needed to be addressed on a long-term basis in order to consistently shore up growth and employment generation. IMF solutions - They say are quite simple provided there exists on our part the will to improve ourselves: n Investment: Requires safe and transparent regulations, the elimination of energy crisis and the States conscious investment in the human development sector to achieve sustainable long-term growth. n Power Sector: Requires structural and management changes, as the price change is not a solution. n Tax to GDP Ratio: Requires equitable taxation among all sectors of economy, broadening of the tax base and honest utilisation of tax proceeds to give the necessary confidence to the taxpayer. While the broadening of the tax base is critical, it needs to be done in an equitable way. n Fiscal Imbalance: Needs to be addressed on an urgent basis because currently the global economy is facing an extremely difficult situation. However, on the other hand, at the same forum one found our own Finance Ministers statements on the state of the economy a bit puzzling, because contrary to the general perception he stated that the first four months of the current fiscal year were very positive with exports going over $6 billion, which are 23 percent more than the same period of the previous year and remittances $4.2 billion, 23 percent up again by the same period of the last year, and the growth in taxes during the first four months was 28 percent with a total collection of Rs509 billion compared to the same period last year. Now whether he knows something that we dont or his cockiness was mainly to put up a brave face in front of the IMF, one cant be too sure about. What one is sure about though is that there is almost certainly a storm approaching the Pakistani economic scene, which if not averted can cause considerable pain. There are worrying signs on the balance of payments front. The current account deficit has been recorded at $1.2 billion in the first three months, as against the official target of $1.40 billion for the entire year. The fiscal deficit target, which at the time of the budget was kept at 4 percent is likely to stretch to 6 percent or beyond. Inflation continues to be stubborn and with the slightest correction in the power and gas tariffs is likely to resume its rapid upward trend. External debt repayment is looming round the corner and can cause serious default concerns, unless provisioned for in a timely manner. But mainly, it is the lack of investment - both domestic and foreign - in the country that signals toward the serious economic difficulties moving Pakistans way. A non-interest in investment represents a very dangerous trend, as in effect it refers to scepticism and loss of confidence in the very future of a country. The leaders, instead of choosing to take difficult decisions to counter such a perception, are enslaved by a rising political temperature in the country and, thereby, more focused on survival than indulging in policy prudence. Pakistan is now being counted amongst the largest group of multi-dimensionally poor countries in the world, according to the Human Development Report 2011 of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Among the low human development countries, Pakistan is at number 145, whereas Bhutan, Sri Lanka, India and China are among the medium development countries. According to the report, Niger has the highest share of multi-dimensionally poor, at 92 percent of the population, followed by Ethiopia and Mali, with 89 percent and 87 percent respectively. For Pakistan, still around 27.40 percent of the population is living in extreme poverty. So the question is: Does the salvation lie in strictly following the IMF solution basket, as mentioned above? Partially yes, but what we must remember is that if the international financial institutions or national financial institutions were, indeed, as good as they think they are, then neither would any economy of the world ever fail, nor would any countrys banks be confronted with the problem of non-performing/'bad debt We, in Pakistan, do not need to reinvent the wheel. China and India now, and the Asian Tigers before them, have already shown the world the cheapest and the quickest way to progress, growth and development for an underdeveloped economy. International trade has always been pivotal in defining and shaping economies. It is vital to any economy striving for prosperity to first get connected to the world. One only has to look at the figures to see that checking cost of production at home and converting this advantage into exports makes sense. Firms that begin to export gain on average a 34 percent uplift in productivity, achieve stronger financial performance and are 11 percent more likely to stay in business. Put simply, exporters enjoy levels of growth and economies of scale often not possible domestically. And this is just the tip of the iceberg, as exporting supports innovation, commercial lifespan of products and services, the resilience of revenues and profitability (sustainability) and entrepreneurship that introduces the culture of a competitive advantage in a country. We do not have to look far because just a glance to our East should be enough to convince us about the route we need to take to succeed. The writer is an entrepreneur and economic analyst. Email: kamalmannoo@hotmail.com