The government is banking on a multiparty conference to help build a huge groundswell of support for an “economic roadmap” that will ultimately put Pakistan in the same league as Asia’s fastest growing economies.
The move stems from similar initiatives undertaken on the issues of terrorism in the country and violence in Karachi. Both these initiatives resulted in endorsements of proposed government measures by nearly all mainstream political groupings.
The ambitious yet daring approach of consensus building on a national economic roadmap - dubbed Vision 2025, comes amid a recently concluded agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on overarching economic guidelines.
Announcing the government initiative, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal said on Monday, “The government has invited all major political parties to develop consensus on national economic agenda for devising future roadmap to achieve the status of fastest growing economy of Asia in next 10 to 15 years.”
He added that the national conference, which is expected to kickstart consultations for developing the next five year plan and Vision 2025, would be held on October 26 and would be chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Explaining the rationale behind the move, Iqbal said his government believed in a policy of evolving consensus to tackle all issues affecting the country including law and order situation in Karachi and terrorism. He said the All Parties Conference (APC) was convened to deal with the security situation, which was a manifestation of the consensus policy.
Revealing that invitation letters had been dispatched to all political parties already, Iqbal added that both the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaaf (PTI) have so far proved that they understood the situation of the country and have therefore avoided confrontational politics.
Hoping that all political parties would nominate their representatives for the conference, Iqbal revealed that the PPP leadership has nominated Saleem Mandviwalla, former federal minister for finance, as its representative to participate in the consultation process.
Building political consensus has been a favoured policy since the time of former president Asif Ali Zardari. Critics of the policy of consensus argue that the responsibility of taking decisions lies on the elected government and consensus building often consumes time and isn’t as fruitful as always envisaged.
Indeed, creating space for a national politico-driven economic policy while remaining within the parameters of the IMF-designed programme will be an uphill task for the political leadership and is likely to constrain the space for dialogue.
Giving details of the national conference, Iqbal said over 1,000 stakeholders from political parties, professionals, economists, academics and others would kick-start deliberations on the economic policy. However, the federal government would also consult with provinces for devising future plans of the country as in the aftermath of 18th amendment and NFC Award.
Iqbal added that Pakistan’s economy would have to achieve a leap forward by enhancing its exports up to $100 billion before 2025 and increasing tax to GDP ratio by over 5% to 14% in order to achieve its real potential of becoming fastest growing economy of Asia in next 10 to 15 years.
“The lack of continuity in devising plans and policy reversals has caused more harms than corruption, said Iqbal. He said the government wanted achieving consensus among political parties to avoid reversal in policies in future.
The announcement of the conference comes on the day the Asian Development Bank released a report projecting a sluggish economic growth rate of 3.4% till 2035 until the country resolves bottlenecks affecting growth.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 15th, 2013.
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