The Business Confidence Index (BCI) for Pakistan, conducted by the Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI), has dropped by four percentage points since November 2016. An even bigger slap to the claims of expanding commerce was the decrease from April 2016 by 19 percentage points. Those who tout speedy economic prosperity for Pakistan — namely, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz — must give these results a second thought. The BCI includes foreign investor confidence, much to the dismay of our industrialists in power. Primary reasons cited for the reduced confidence is a decline in capital investment plans and business instability during the past six months, plausibly due to the precarious security situation.
It is troubling that the BCS of Pakistan’s major cities, particularly in Punjab, which have seen the most development, have a combined reported decline by nine percentage points. In fact, Mr Sharif and company must be mulling over the fact that Lahore’s BCI declined to a negative three per cent, decreasing by 29 percentage points. Although his beloved Rawalpindi and Islamabad received higher BCIs than before, the ground reality is that this is a country where most people’s basic needs are unmet. Electricity, potable or even non-potable water, and food are still considered privileges in Pakistan today, as opposed to basic rights. This is a country whose upper middle and middle classes still perceive air conditioning as a luxury, when its function is to provide comfort — and protection from heatstroke.
Pakistan also continues to harbour factions whose primitive mindsets penetrate the young generations, emboldening them to impinge on others’ rights to various freedoms. The survey results are not all that surprising; investor and business confidence were expected to decline against the backdrop of an unstable political and security situation in the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2017.