The annual Economic and Social Survey of Asia and Pacific 2019 must be a cause for concern for our policymakers. The survey conducted by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (ESCAP) suggests that Pakistan’s economy will grow far slower than its regional neighbours amid a slight regional economic slowdown over the next year and a half. Among the Saarc member states – only barring war-torn Afghanistan – Pakistan will have the lowest expected gross domestic growth of 4% in 2020. Even Nepal and the Maldives – once dubbed Saarc minnows – are far ahead of Pakistan with their GDP growth rates expected to soar above 6% in 2020. Sri Lanka, which currently ranks below Pakistan, is also forecast to pull ahead next year.
With medium-to-long term prospects depending on structural transformation and broad-based productivity, the ESCAP report cautions countries against shifting from their traditional agriculture-base to one in which services play a dominant role, while bypassing the manufacturing sector. Once tipped as a potential Tiger Club member, Pakistan has faltered to deceive every time the label was used for it. Most recently, the label was used just two years ago when it went through a period of lowest inflation and highest growth in a long time.
Imran Khan too, in his election campaign, promised to turn Pakistan into an Asian Tiger. But 10 months after taking over the reins of power, all the signs point towards the country going the other way – apparently not for the lack of efforts, but perhaps for want of experience and expertise. The government has the will – and maybe the vision too – to put the economy on the right track, but what’s terribly lacking is the capacity to translate this will into action and this vision into reality. With its various sectors viz, agriculture, tourism, mines, minerals, etc, offering a lot of potential, the country only needs to be guided in the right direction so as to achieve the goal of becoming an Asian Tiger.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 6th, 2019.
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