ISLAMABAD: This is with reference to the story “No NDMA status for India unless concerns addressed” (February 25). The prime minister’s adviser on national security and foreign affairs has again spoken on India’s non-tariff barriers alluding that these prevent exports from Pakistan to India. The adviser has merely said what we read every day in newspapers and see on TV programmes.
To strengthen our case, we should bring forth the Pakistan-specific non-tariff barriers, which India allegedly imposes on Pakistani exports to India. Not one person has come forth listing out such measures. Most have evaded answers by narrating hearsay stories of some small-time government officials holding back clearances but no concrete rule or law has been cited to support the Pakistani case. This mindset of victimhood is the biggest impediment in the way of Pakistan’s growth. Strangely, an influential section of businessmen, opinion-makers and politicians are comfortable in letting our markets be swamped by Chinese, South Korean, Japanese and Taiwanese goods, but cry foul when the question of trading with India on fair grounds is raised. With every one of these countries, we have a negative balance of trade and yet, not an eyebrow is raised.
Our inability to export is not limited to India only. This is a general phenomenon of our export pattern. We have not diversified, nor have our volumes increased by any appreciable numbers over the years. We do not spend on product development and research. Our farming methods are medieval. Therefore, our farm productivity is amongst the lowest. Our industry is inefficient and has not grown within its cocoon of protectionism. Why begrudge someone’s efficiency? After all, China only became a factor in the global economy when Beijing opened its doors under Deng Xiaoping during the 1980s. India’s own potential was unleashed during the early 1990s when it opened itself to competition. The stories are countless.
No growth takes place in a vacuum. Competition and resistance engenders the best in human beings — that is the nature’s way. Even a kite does not fly without air resistance. This protectionism, arising out of a ‘victim’ mentality, is the real cause of Pakistan’s problems. Protectionism breeds a false and unsustainable sense of security, thwarts innovation and reduces the challenge to grow. If, after almost seven decades of independence, we still need protectionism, what good is the so-called human talent in this country? The truth is that this nation is a hostage to a few robber barons.
The common man is compelled to pay higher prices while only a few benefit. No wonder, over a third of Pakistanis, according to a Sustainable Development Policy Institute report cited in your paper of the same date, are living below the poverty line. Pakistan needs to face up to the challenge, and compete globally through efficiency and innovation, instead of falling for the political rhetoric of ‘non-tariff barriers’.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 2nd, 2014.