A much-needed Charter of Economy

Pakistani politicians deem their popularity more important than the national economy


Sajad Jatoi September 07, 2022
The writer is a freelance columnist based in Larkana. He can be reached at [email protected]

On the eve of the Independence Day anniversary, PM Shehbaz Sharif once again invited the opposition parties, especially the PTI, to sit with the government to hold talks on a Charter of Economy, and agree on a set of policies so that the national economy is not impacted by petty politics. It was not the first time he extended such an invitation as he has been talking of this for quite some time now; however, he is yet to receive a positive response.

It is right to a large extent that the economy should be related with economics, not with politics which is characterised by tumult and turmoil. But unfortunately, this is not the case in Pakistan, as after assuming power, almost every single party has shied away from taking tough decisions — ones falling heavy on public pockets — to restructure the economy.

Unfortunately, Pakistani politicians deem their popularity more important than the national economy. Take, for instance, the case of ex-PM Imran Khan. In March, when Khan realised that nothing could prevent the no-confidence motion against his PMship from taking place, he resorted to populist measures which did help him increase his popularity, but at the cost of the economy. He reduced the prices of petroleum products by providing subsidy, thereby violating the terms agreed with the IMF by his government.

That was a political move, aimed at making sure that in case he loses the vote of no-confidence, the subsidy on fuels would make it impossible for the coming government to handle. It was a clear case of planting landmines for the next setup rather than lessening the financial burden on the masses.

Coming back to the point, the call for a Charter of Economy is a rational one to which Khan should give due consideration. PM Shehbaz is not asking anything; he is just inviting him to have a dialogue. So, Khan as well as the leaders of other political parties should sit and put forward their suggestions on how to reform the economy.

In the absence of a Charter of Economy, not a single party is willing to introduce genuine reforms that involves taking difficult decisions. If a party in power does that, it will have to face bitter opposition and fierce resistance from influential quarters including capitalists and feudal lords. Governments also shy away from taking much-needed measures to fix the ailing economy out of the fear that the opposition parties would politicise their unpopular decision, and take unfair advantage by winning over the electorate.

Debate and dialogue on policies are held the world over. For example, in the UK where the Conservative party has picked Liz Truss as PM, members of the party were holding debates with each other as to what set of policies they would adopt on key issues when they assume power. It is in this respect that Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak were debating their strategies publicly.

Sadly, Khan seems to want nothing but to return to power for his lifetime. His conduct indicates that he is also desirous of rising as the sole leader of Muslim Ummah. This is why he is dead set against accepting the present government.

There is no harm in sitting with the government to hold talks on the economy, or any other issues of core concern. Khan is well advised to swallow his ego and accept the fact that his wishful thinking cannot be translated into reality right away. Thus, it would be better for him, as well as in the interest of the country, to accept the realities and build consensus on a Charter of Economy — something that the nation badly needs in these times of crisis.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 7th, 2022.

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