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Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 500, 5 January 2023

Pakistan’s economy: Who should take the blame for Pakistan’s current situation?



PTI’s white paper blames the PML-N

Ankit Singh


The PML-N and the PTI are accusing each other of the economic situation. The political leadership on the one hand is calling for a national dialogue on the charter of the economy while blaming the other to gain more political capital. The new standoff between PTI and PML-N is an outcome of the state of things -  myopic political interests, global economic slowdown and lack of awareness about internal economic issues.
First, myopic politics. The white paper by the PTI discusses how certain macroeconomic parameters like inflation, declining remittance inflows, currency depreciation, decreasing imports, fiscal deficit etc., have worsened during PDM’s regime. However, the PTI, in its own conclusion, arrives at the same stand that tough conditions by IMF have to be accepted on the exchange rate and revenues or face default. The paper does not provide a way out rather, it goes back to the question of change of regime and whether the removal of Imran Khan was legitimate or not. Retrospective politics in spite of prospective politics will remain a mileage for PTI in the upcoming months. The white paper has not discussed external loans conceded during the Imran Khan regime and it is conveniently assumed that economic trends and policies of one regime become karmas in the same term.

Second, lack of economic awareness. According to a paper by IMF in May 2022, the cyclical and non-cyclical relation between inflationary trends and unemployment have changed from the first decade of 21 century while the second decade had different dynamics on price movements. The paper by IMF was evidence that economics as a discipline remains elusive to almost everyone. The same goes for the current spirit behind the white paper of PTI. The paper did not discuss the tax amnesties provided to the real estate sector during Imran Khan's regime, the issues behind the circular debt, subsidies given to fertiliser, wheat imports and farm machinery and the decision to restart the IMF by Imran Khan was not explained in the white paper.

Third, global economic slowdown. The uncertainty of the investors and banks on the US’s position on keeping the policy rate on the higher side. This anxiety is further hyped by slumping manufacturing activity in China. The Ukraine-Russia conflict was the last keel on the fears of recession across the world. This exaggerated the inflation trends and developing economies suffered double-digit inflation across the world. Sri Lanka with an inflation of 57.2 per cent even witnessed a stumping of the government by the masses. The same issues are impacting Pakistan on top of circular debt in the power sector and not-so-cordial relations with the US in the recent past.

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