Discipline, not endless agitation, is the path to economic stability
After a quite unnecessary tiff over whether Army chief General Bajwa was right in commenting on the national economy, the PMLN government is making the right noises, including the assertion of “critic” interior minister Ahsan Iqbal that the Army and the government were absolutely on the same page. What is more, finance minister Ishaq Dar, about whose resignation the media and the opposition were making vitriolic remarks, came out with his usual all-is-well defense of the economy.
He said there was no question of going back to the IMF hat-in-hand and asking to be given another bailout program. Pakistan’s foreign reserves, increased from $6 billion to around $14 billion in the four years of his ministry, were not under pressure, and the growth rate had been raised from 3.7 to 5.3 percent. There was no plan to devalue the rupee just because the exports were languishing. As for tax-to-GDP ratio, it had been increased from 9.8 percent to over 12.5 percent “but there was still room for improvement.”
The world outside doesn’t see us the way we do. They attribute the poor performance in certain sectors requiring belt-tightening to lack of political stability. After the 2013 elections the country hasn’t seen a day of normal activity. Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf has hit the road from day one and some party insiders reveal that the grand sit-in of 2015 in Islamabad was planned by state spooks who wanted the Nawaz Sharif government pulled down through agitation against perceived election rigging called “dhaandli.”
Agitation didn’t stop even after the rigging allegations were dismissed at the Supreme Court and got out of hand with Khan refusing to answer summons from the court of law. The conditions produced by unceasing agitation—supported by a media under pressure of persuasion—booby-trapped economic management with populism. Pakistan required disciplining in the income tax sector and privatization but was faced with people joining the “long march” politics because of the “hardship” of economic discipline.