CHAIRING a meeting of the Economic Advisory Council (EAC) on Sunday, Prime Minister Imran Khan reportedly instructed the Ministry of Finance to continue talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) but also keep an alternative strategy ready. Minister for Finance Asad Umar briefed the meeting on talks with the IMF and said the government will have to take tough economic decisions. Some participants of the meeting are said to have expressed their reservations about taking tough decisions, as it might create political problems for the government.
EAC includes some of the most brilliant brains of the nation, therefore, it can certainly help lead the country on the path of sustainable growth provided the authorities concerned give due consideration to its recommendations and implement them without any reservations. However, it must be kept in mind that experts only consider the professional aspect of a situation and do not take into account possible fallout of the strategy proposed by them for the masses. It is for the Government, which has been voted to power by masses, to safeguard interests of the people especially the vulnerable segments of the population. The Government seems to be not clear headed as far as economic and fiscal policy and its impact on the general public is concerned. This is because measures so far approved by the Government have led to unbearable increase in burden on the common man. Free fall of rupee, increase in import duty and frequent upward adjustment in the tariff of electricity and gas have not only complicated problems of the layman but also run contrary to the Government’s objective of ensuring ease of doing business. How can you attract investment or enhance productivity by halting work on almost all infrastructure development projects and increasing the cost of input? On the one hand you are going to launch a massive housing project but on the other hand cost of construction has gone up tremendously during the last few weeks due to impact of government policies and judicial interventions leading to significant rise in prices of bricks, steel, cement and other related material. Similarly, how can we increase exports when factories are closing down due to contradiction in policies? Problems of the economy are not expected to one go or in just weeks or months, therefore, the Government might reconsider its approach and pursue a more pragmatic policy that also takes care of the vulnerability of the masses. What IMF has proposed is surely going to jolt the poor and therefore the Prime Minister has done well by giving instructions for devising an alternate strategy to cope with the financial and economic woes of the Government. Incidentally, the World Economic Forum too has listed water crisis, unmanageable inflation, terrorist attacks, failure of urban planning and critical infrastructure as immediate risks faced by Pakistan and the Government needs to adopt a holistic approach to address these and other challenges.