‘Economy is Politicized. Charter of Economy Needed’.

“We have politicized the economy up to such an extent that is a disservice to economy and the country,” Pakistan’s Minister of State for Finance Aisha Ghaus Pasha said while addressing a conference arranged by the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) on Research for Social Transformation and Advancement (RASTA) on Wednesday.

“No government can bring in proper structural reforms simply because of politicization irrespective of the consideration that one party has to criticize whether it is making sense or not. Till we continue to do this we will never be able to undertake proper structural reforms.”

Ms. Pasha said there were too many lobbies taking the policymakers in the wrong direction.

She said the much-needed and long overdue structural reforms to achieve sustainable recovery would remain a pipe-dream as long as the economy remains politicized.

“We all committed wrongs with the economy in the last 70 years and every stakeholder shared its responsibility as I should be bold enough that bureaucrats, military establishment, technocrats, politicians, and vested interest elites contributed to it. Let’s share responsibility and call spade a spade,” she said and added, “this is the malice in which we are just right now”.

She said Pakistan was dependent upon the IMF bailout package because it did not put its own house in order. “When we put our things in order, we will not accept any dictation. When we go to the IMF, we possess such a small degree of freedom we cannot negotiate well with the Fund, mainly because our house is not in order.”

She said that the path to sustained growth was a far cry as at the moment the stabilization could not be undertaken in a proper manner.

In the existing situation of continuous point-scoring, no political party possessed the courage to take the right decision, Pasha said.

“We are ourselves to be blamed where we are on the economic front. Pakistan is in such a critical time that if we continue with our path, we will not have Pakistan that we have right now. I am not scaring you but just indicating to you as an economist where we are heading.”

“..no structural reforms could be done painlessly. All those policymakers who benefited in the past must realize there is no more rent to seek. Your rent-seeking has gone more as we reached a place where there is no further rent-seeking possible. As we are increasing the size and pie of the economy there is a need to shun my share and your share-related divide at this moment.”

This existing challenge on the economic front, she said, could be converted into an opportunity. “We need help from the media, civil society, and opinion-makers.”

The state minister for economy said it was a critical time and it should be converted into an opportunity.

“We should put ourselves in the right kind of frame into such structural reforms that can put Pakistan on the path of moving towards self-reliance. Let us join hands to devise such a plan that can steer the country from crisis mode. At the moment, we are not placing the needed reforms. We are not where we should be. The Charter of Economy should be pursued and depoliticize the economy.”

COMMENT shared by an overseas Pakistani professional with despardes.com: “I agree, and we need to start with the perks given to the military and bureaucracy. Need to tax the big landlords. Also cut the money spent on the military specially non-essential spending and freebies. Work with the private sector to try to alleviate poverty and corruption. Remove most quota systems and promote meritocracy. Total ban on import of luxury items for 5 to 10 years. Develop your own internal talent and resources. Invest in renewables. Redesign houses and buildings that are more energy efficient that use natural lighting ventilation. Focus on good practical mass transit systems for people and goods. Minimize truck traffic to help lower fuel consumption, pollution and road repair. Follow Norway and or Sweden’s perks for ejected officials which are essentially zero. They pay for most of the expenses themselves. An example is Angela Merkel who stayed in her own apartment and did most of the work herself while she was in government. Like somebody quoted Quaid e Azam: when asked about tea or refreshments in government house. His response was “they can have tea or coffee and snacks at home. This is government money and not to be spent frivolously.”

She said every political party had to criticize the steps at 7 to 11 pm on TV shows irrespective of any consideration that these steps were necessary or not for overhauling the economy.

“Everyone is giving sweeping statements as people sitting on the media have become economic experts.”

She said justifying subsidy, which was financed through borrowed money, had impacted every one.

“We do need evidence-based policymaking. All the mistakes that were made provided much evidence that we did not make the right kind of policies at the right point of time,” she added.

Pasha further said something went wrong because the boom and bust cycle was not ending. Something had gone wrong and collectively failed to put things in the right direction, she added. She concluded her address saying whatever resources the country possessed at federal or provincial levels should be utilized effectively and in a transparent manner. The original report appeared in The News