Since her very independence, Pakistan has been, and is still, relying on foreign-aid from international financial institutions like IMF, World Bank and others as well as from foreign donor countries. These loans, although, kept Pakistan’s economic locomotive running yet it could not produce sustainable economic growth. With the passage of time, we were burdened with increasing foreign debt. And, at present, every newborn Pakistani comes with an albatross of foreign debt around his neck.
Pakistan has largely become a consumer country as our industries are almost non-functional. Even state-owned enterprises (SOEs) like Pakistan Steel Mills, Pakistan International Airlines and Pakistan Railways are running on a loss and the government looks for private investors to ameliorate them. The plight of our industries has worsened with the acute energy crisis.
Almost all of the commodities in Pakistan are imported from China. We import Chinese goods, ranging from minute things, like pins, to highly-sophisti-cated electronic equipment, only because they are cheaper than those locally produced. The disturbing fact in this story is that there are no tariffs on Chinese goods to protect our domestic industry. In this state of affairs, how can we expect our domestic industry to flourish?
Development of the industrial sector, which has, unfortunately, been a victim of government’s neglect, is vital for economic development and growth. With no tangible investment in this sector, the country’s economy will ultimately collapse.
Another problem Pakistan is mired in is corruption and bad governance. As long as we adhere to our inclination toward seeking foreign aid, the demon of corruption cannot be exorcized from the society, especially amongst the privileged class. The dependency on soft loans has made us indifferent toward earned and un-earned income.
Although China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) seems to add an impetus to economic development in the region, yet without a viable policy for increasing investment in the industrial sector and its protection, we will not be able to fully utilize our resources to extract maximum economic benefits. If nothing is done in this respect our balance of payments will continue to worsen. In this context, the CPEC may also prove to be an eclipse over Pakistan’s economy and we will not be able to reap its benefits unless we mend our approach toward major sectors of economic development.
In the end, it is pertinent to say that had the nation followed the advice of self-reliance given by Dr Allama Muhammad Iqbal, or the vision of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the picture of Pakistan’s economy would have been quite different and could have been a source of pride for all of us.
Author: M. Khalid Munir