Pakistan’s ranking on the 2019 Index of Economic Freedom by The Wall Street Journal and The Heritage Foundation, although having improved in some measures, demonstrates that the country remains one of the most inhibited in terms of economic growth. The increase was by a measly 0.6% — hardly anything to write home about. Out of 186 countries, Pakistan is at 131 among the most economically free. Given this, it is puzzling as to why so many have returned to the country and why others having never left are more optimistic than before. Perhaps the optimism is due to an untested political party in power. This, however, seems somewhat unrealistic because since the new government took office, it has sought to interfere or intervene more in the day-to-day business of the state, and the Supreme Court taking more of a proactive role in various government departments apart from its role in the judiciary.
The report cites the chronic ailments which the country has long been suffering from. These ailments are sure to quiet even the ever-glad Pollyanna who refuses to believe that these ailments persist and will stay for long considering the present state of affairs. For instance, there is corruption in the lower judiciary, a fact which many are reluctant to acknowledge. A backlog of cases pending in courts points to a faulty system; high-profile cases are processed more speedily whereas people with limited financial means endlessly visit the courts with no results. Poverty refuses to go because of persistence of low economic autonomy. Corruption thrives unhindered at the smallest and highest levels of society. These factors heavily contribute to a stunting of economic growth, which requires a moderate amount of freedom.
Revising economic freedom laws and tax policies would encourage more citizens to utilise appropriate channels for conducting business in the country. Decades of mistrust between citizens and governments have led to flight of capital and black money transactions with unsatisfactory justifications that any money paid to the government would be used for illicit purposes, tilting the moral compass of even honest citizens.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 10th, 2019.