A nation-state is built on a political philosophy that delineates the mindset of its people. Hence, it is imperative for the state to recognize and provide its citizens with fundamental rights. Unfortunately, over the course of years we have seen a sheer lack of this provision in Pakistan as the country has been, and is still, facing several socioeconomic issues which hinder our country’s way to development.
With a population of nearly 192 million people, Pakistan bears the burden of one of the most illiterate populaces in Asia. About half of the country’s male, and two-third of the female, population cannot even write their names. The problem of illiteracy persists due to broad policy hurdles and some on-ground factors. In policymaking, it is the lack of political will that can be seen in allocation of only a paltry budget for education, delays in release of funds and institutional ineptness and corruption. Resultantly, insufficient infrastructure in the form of school buildings and other facilities, low professional capacity of teachers due to the non-availability of proper training institutes, uneven teacher-student ratios, lack of teaching aids, and last, but surely not least, low public awareness concerning the value of education; all contribute toward pervasive low literacy rate which in Pakistan is only 58% (i.e. 42% of our population is still unable to read or write) thus making the country be ranked at 160th position. Even some Saarc countries like India, the Maldives and Sri Lanka, have literacy rates higher than Pakistan’s.
Besides illiteracy, another chronic problem of Pakistan is overpopulation. Pakistan is the world’s sixth most populous country with a growth rate of 1.92 percent. A number of factors can be held responsible for this burning issue. For instance, over 97 percent of people in Pakistan are Muslims and they have the firm belief that Allah is “Raziq” i.e. The Sustainer, therefore, most of them repel the concept of family planning and restricting family sizes to a nominal proportion.
Another critical issue, which causes numerous other problems, is unemployment. It is, by and large, the most perilous issue because we have countless young men and women who do not have any job or any platform to exploit their talents and abilities. Alienated by a feeling of abandonment, they may involve in heinous activities like street crimes, dacoities and even terrorism. Poverty is another outcome of this menace. According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the daily income of 65.5 percent Pakistanis is below 2 US dollars a day. As per an Asian Development Bank (ADB) report, 57.8 million people in Pakistan are living in abject poverty.
In addition, health, education and sanitation sector in Pakistan are also poorly managed. The reason we still are far from progressing as a nation is that our basic infrastructure is in tatters. An even worsened social tribulation is the grip of a landed oligarchy in Punjab and Sindh, and of tribal chiefs in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, over the rural population and it continues to be a major cause of the ever-growing inequality in Pakistan.
These social inequities have escalated economic issues in Pakistan; the problem that is further exacerbated by a growing import-export imbalance. Currently, Pakistan is the 44th largest economy in the world in nominal terms of purchasing power parity. The biggest economic setback to the country has been caused by the unending war on terrorism. For instance, back in 2008 during Musharraf regime, a Pakistan-Afghan trade transit route was established but it was hijacked by militants; thus, blocking Pak-Afghan trade that could have been a source of huge earnings for Pakistan.
Ineptness on the part of policymakers can be seen in the fact that in spite of historic fall in oil prices, which saved billions of dollars for Pakistan, no substantial economic benefits could be gained. The price of benchmark Brent crude has fallen from $115 in mid-June 2014 to nearly $30. This 70pc decline alone has implied a saving of $7.6bn between June 2014 and January 2016. The prices of other imported commodities have also fallen sharply but Pakistan’s economy has failed to take off.
Moreover, an increasing inflation has been making the lives of the common people burdensome. The annual rate of inflation in Pakistan in FY2014-15 was estimated to be 2.1 percent. In case of Pakistan, inflation is the product of a multidimensional process. It is the outcome of two economies — open and underground — and rampant corruption and crime, which makes it difficult for the government or society to curtail it.
Apart from the aforementioned economic malfunctions, a poorly managed tax system is another Achilles’ heel for Pakistan. The tax-evasion ill has permeated the country to such an extent that all guesses, surmises and even scientific research prove fallacious — various guesses put the figure between the range of 50 percent and 200 percent. All taxes, whether direct or indirect, are evaded to a greater or a lesser extent by an overwhelming majority of our countrymen.
Two definitive economic problems are commandeering Pakistan’s economy at the moment.
First, our unceasing dependence on agriculture forces us to work limitlessly for this sector. Nearly 60.8 percent population of Pakistan is living in more than 50,000 villages where agriculture is the major occupation of the people. This sector contributes 29.1 percent to GDP while in advanced nations it is less than 5 percent. It employs 45 percent of our labour force unlike below 5 percent in developed countries. Moreover, we are paying most attention to this sector which comes at the expense of other sectors like industries and trade.
Second, underdeveloped countries (UDC) are loans- and grants-receiving nations. Most developing countries, like Pakistan, depend on foreign loans. The burden of foreign loans keeps on piling up. We are in a huge debt trap because of which our economy is in shackles.
The abovementioned points bring us to a conclusion that we need to eradicate all these socioeconomic injustices in order to progress as a nation. However, this would be possible only if the government and we, as the citizens of this state, aim to thrive. A few radical reforms that can revitalize our basic social and economic structure are direly needed. To gulf the gap between the rich and the poor we have to ensure equal distribution of wealth. There is a sheer need to curb corruption at all levels, and therefore institutions like NAB and FIA should be made more powerful, vigilant and free of any political intervention. Free healthcare should be provided to the citizens, whilst simultane-ously restructuring the curricula taught in our educational institutions. Energy crisis must be resolved to give our economy the much-needed boost and most importantly, maximum investments should be made in projects to empower our youth. It will not only make them enterprising, but will also equip them with the best knowledge and other technological advancements. This is the only way forward if we want Pakistan to be listed among the most developed countries of the world.