Keeping democratic institutions strong
Pakistan has faced major challenges in its socioeconomic situation over past seventy years. However, not all problems have been overcome. The key problems of today include: water scarcity; the lack of sustainable development projects; an increasingly unemployed youth population; the lack of focus on human development projects; a continuous reduction in the foreign exchange reserves; the increase in non-developmental expenditures; the increase in public debt; the unequal distribution of wealth; the rising deprivation in Baluchistan, interior Sindh, and Southern Punjab; unpleasant relations in the region, especially with the eastern and western neighbours; the poor condition of small and medium enterprises (SMEs); and the failure to effectively implement the local bodies system, which is considered the basis for democracy.
One of the major issues the country is facing is a shortage of water. According to research by the American University, Pakistan is among the top ten countries in the world which are suffering from a water crisis. Handling this water crisis will not be easy. It is necessary that work on the Kalabagh and Diamer-Basha Dams be completed at the earliest possible opportunity. According to a recent report, 40 million acre-feet (MAF) of water is draining into the sea due to lack of dams. The Kalabagh Dam has a capacity to store 6.4 MAF of water, the Diamer-Basha Dam can store 5.8 MAF, and the Dasu Dam can store 6 MAF of water. If these three dams are completed, then lot of water will be saved from being wasted which may aid in reducing the water shortage.
If these dams are not constructed, Pakistan will face a drinking water crisis and its agriculture sector will be destroyed. In Pakistan, agriculture has a deep connection with other industries, such as the textile and pesticide industries. Due to a lack of water, both agriculture and agriculture-related industries are on the brink of total collapse. The agricultural sector is affected by both the lack of water as well as the government’s neglect: such as not providing reasonable support prices or subsidies on fertilisers and seeds.
Public debt is increasing because of which we must pay attention to the value of the rupee. Ishaq Dar has controlled the dollar due to which inflation remained under control but foreign exchange reserves continued to be depleted
Air pollution is another major issue. The country’s climate is getting worse day by day, for which trees must be planted. The increasing severity of floods and silting of dams is leading to decrease in their storage capacity as a result of deforestation.
In the future, the water crisis will more serious than the load shedding crisis. While the load shedding crisis has been somewhat overcome, our transmission lines are worn out which causes the entire power system to keep on tripping. Timely action is needed to address this issue so that the requirements of the growing population can be fulfilled. Today there continues to be load shading despite having no shortfall. Thus, even if we were able to generate more electricity, load shedding would still not be reduced because of the lack of capacity in the transmission system.
There is a lack of sustainable development projects in Pakistan. The number of youth in our country is constantly increasing, which means that unemployment is growing rapidly as well. That is why technical education needs to be provided. B-Tech education and other technical education should be made available to everyone. The maximum number of youth possible should be equipped with the skills they need to earn money abroad so that they can contribute to the gross national product (GNP).
The country’s current population is more than 210 million. The growing population has a negative impact on the country reserves and depletes resources. Unchecked population growth can be extremely detrimental to Pakistan’s development. For this, a family planning emergency must be triggered and must be enforced.
The country faces an unequal distribution of wealth. In Musharraf’s era, this phenomenon increased rapidly because most of the economic experts at the time belonged to the banking sector. This meant that the agricultural sector was ignored and the small and medium business sector was also affected. The rich became richer and the poor became poorer. Afterwards, the Pakistan Peoples’ Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz came into power which allowed this difference to be narrowed down. This suggests that democracy is a good option to achieve equal distribution of wealth. The local bodies system from Article 140 of the constitution states that power should be transferred to the lower levels of government. When this transition finally occurs, it will improve the condition of the public as well.
The country’s tax net needs to expand as only a small segment of the population pays tax. Landlords, civil and military bureaucracy, large companies, bank owners, and housing society owners are included in the elite of Pakistan and are given special privileges in the form of tax cuts to avoid certain taxes.
Our commercial banks should invest in the SME sector. Projects like the Benazir Income Support Fund will not end poverty, but may rather create a huge population of poor people that are dependent on social welfare. Dr Younus’s microfinance model can be implemented to revive the country’s economy.
Non-developmental funds should be reduced. Attention needs to be paid to issues like food security, education, and health. In our country, 3.5pc of the GDP is spent on health and 2.8pc goes to education (as per budget 2016-17). Both of these sectors need significant increase in budget.
If the democratic government plays more proactive as well as assertive role in foreign policy, it is likely that relations with Afghanistan and India would improve. Spending on defense could be reduced and this money could be applied to development projects, health, and education.
Public debt is increasing because of which we must pay attention to the value of the rupee. Ishaq Dar has controlled the dollar due to which inflation remained under control but foreign exchange reserves continued to be depleted. Over the last five years, exports have declined by $4 billion while imports have increased by $8 billion. In 2012-13, our exports were $24.5 billion and have now fallen to $19.20 billion, while imports were $45.1 billion and have grown to $49.40 billion. The fiscal deficit now exceeds $30 billion. Serious measures are needed in this area to rectify the problem.
The most important thing that should be focused on is strengthening the democracy. In the past, most of the worst decisions took place under dictators. For example, if democracy had continued after Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the country would not have taken part in the Afghan war and in the Musharraf era, the load shedding problem would have not arisen. The country’s future possibilities for development and prosperity depend on the continuation of democracy in the country.
By: SYED ZEESHAN HAIDER
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