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- Creative Commons
- Creative Commons

With the PML-N led government promising further drops in inflation, foreign exchange reserves crossing $15 billion in July and friendly neighbours lending a helping hand, there is no shortage of articles cropping up on the great economic strides being made by Pakistan.

The real question however, is if any of these economic successes will trickle down to the general public.

From a person who has been moderately successful at entrepreneurship, the first thing I have noticed, is that indeed in the transition period, the wheels of trade were turning quite smoothly and it seemed as if things were getting better.

Hotels being full and deals being struck were among the first signs of a galvanization of economy; these deals would be a key source of employment and improve living standards for the public. Add to this the fact that it seemed like this government had some sort of a plan to handle our debt crisis, and almost every one I met seemed hopeful.

Since then though, a year has passed and I think now is a time when we need to stop giving the new government a chance and ask some questions.

1) Foreign exchange crossing 10 billion dollars

Saudi arabia’s magnanimity aside, nobody gives 1.5 billion dollars as a gift to any country without expecting something in return.

There will be costs associated with this 'gift', ranging from something we seem to not give a toss about (some sheikh's kid killing 1,000 Houbara Bustards in our interior) to those with serious consequences e.g. our army on call to serve our Arab brethren when they feel threatened.

Economic success from this gift cannot trickle down to the poor unless the government uses it to say, subsidize food staples and ensure their supply. That would make a huge difference - but will it happen?

2) 3,500 megawatts electricity plants in the next three years

This aim by the government is laudable, and yes there are no magical wand waving solutions to a burgeoning and looming power collapse, which is imminent given how our population grows and consumes.

However, if Pakistan is to grow economically right now, we need to provide our industries with power. Three years may be too late for us. We need a solution now, and even if that means running a power line from India or China to our grid and buying their excess electricity “so be it”.

Also, it is quite sad to see that companies which generate and control power in our country get to raise tariffs without any consultation with trade bodies or chambers of industry. The current electricity tariffs are expected to go up yet again in the upcoming budget. Rising costs of inputs lead to the crippling of economic activity.

We also need to quantify and enforce load control measures. Every house in major cities in Pakistan in the affluent neighborhoods has 4-8 air conditioners. Should they be allowed to suck up loads without check?

3) Great development taking place in Pakistan

It is, but where is it taking place? If we take Punjab as the model for this development it will score top notch points across the board. However, what of the other provinces? How much development is taking place in Baluchistan? Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa? Sindh? We need to examine this first before we make claims of great economic development.

The power base of PML-N is Punjab and they have always worked effectively there, but we cannot ignore the other provinces and hope to stride forth as a nation together. For trade to flourish in areas that are currently bereft of economic activity, proper infrastructure is needed much more then over passes in Lahore or Karachi.

In South Sudan, USAID helped build a 192-kilometer-long Juba-Nimule Road, the largest infrastructure project ever built in South Sudan. It connected Juba to Uganda and generated economic opportunities for the South Sudanese along the whole route.

If we only uplifted the roads across our provinces, connecting them properly, we would take strides.

Having said that, I myself have heard Mariam Nawaz say "my father is not the prime minister of Punjab but of Pakistan", so progressive thought does exist at the power center today. However, unless that progressive thought translates into actual policy that enables productivity, we are not going anywhere for a long, long time.

For starters as our Chinese friends are talking about a $32 billion investment package; the government needs to make sure that this investment goes to all basic areas of need for economic activity.

The money must be used to enable projects to employ all of Pakistan, leading to the economic boost we need. It cannot be said enough: we need stable power, better roads and some incentives.

If the government can provide just the basics to our business community, there will be no stopping Pakistan. That much I can guarantee.

Author Image

The writer is the Editor Lingua Urdu at Global Voices. He is also the Director Digital Strategy and Social Media at Mind Map Communications. He tweets @faisalkapadia.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (34) Closed

AsR May 19, 2014 02:44pm

Dasu in KPK, Bhasha in Baltistan, Nuclear power plants (20000 MW) and Karachi-Multan motorway in Sindh, Ratodero motorway, Gadani Coal plants and Gawadar port in Balochistan and still you complain PML-N is only focusing on Punjab?

Tariq, Lahore May 19, 2014 03:15pm

Having traveled the world I can say that our ordinary folk are very industrious indeed but are badly let down by our lack of infrastructure which can only be planned and built by the governments as it demands vision and mega bucks but sadly our leaders' lack of vision, although $$$ are borrowed but are either squander by misappropriation or spent on lavish palatial official residences.

Realist May 19, 2014 03:16pm

It is not possible if people of other province elect other parties and expect good work from by PML-N....Why not ask PTI in KPK and PPP in Sindh for development in respective provinces.

Khalid May 19, 2014 03:17pm

Nice article. I just hope that someone in the government reads it. Pakistan has been restricted to Punjab. Even foreign dignitaries fly directly to Lahore and go back. Prime MInister feels it is beneath him to attend parliament sessions, which shows how serious he is in lawmaking. Shortage of power, lack of education, lack of health facilities and non-existent safety and security situation is eating up our beloved Pakistan and they continue to distribute laptops in Lahore. What a waste of money that is. Even USA doesn't give laptops to students.

Hammad May 19, 2014 03:26pm

Wow. You really worked hard to discover something to blame PMLN for the misgovernance in KPK, Sindh and Balochistan. Let me remind you that there is an operation underway in Karachi, precisely to bring peace and prosperity to Sindh. The Balochistan CM's performance is very laudable, with security situation improving, Gawadar alive again, and investment in the province. All these provinces are on an upward trajectory. That leaves KPK, whose capital is said to be under Taliban control once the moon rises. Let's talk about the measures specifically taken by KPK's government to improve its situation, and I don't mean cosmetics like mobile justice courts.

bkt May 19, 2014 03:42pm

I can't believe you can ask this question. Of course Pakistan is making progress. We are the king wearing his new clothes, that is all.

abdullah May 19, 2014 03:58pm

i guess after 18th Amnedment provinces also need to do something its not the centers game anymore .Y not pose this question to imran khan, saien and malik baloch.What has punjab got to do with it.

uaahmed May 19, 2014 04:43pm

@AsR tell me which one of these was initiated by the N Government? so far all i see is that most of these projects have been delayed by them

Raj Patel May 19, 2014 05:11pm

Pakistani People expect different result every time with same input. In USA we says garbage in garbage out.

A2Z May 19, 2014 06:12pm

Top notch points in Punjab...are you kidding? Making flyovers and underpasses is not progress. Punjab is power base of PML-N since 1985, can you name any single instance where institutions has been developed? Govt schools are in miserable condition, police has been politicized, hospitals are not functional, nothing has been done and they will not do anything in future.

Khalid May 19, 2014 07:41pm

@Realist What you are really saying is that other provinces are being punished for not electing PML-N, the same way TTP were told to attack other provinces and leave Punjab alone by Rana Sanaullah. I just hope that you are not in any responsible position in the government or speaking on their behalf.

Khalid May 19, 2014 07:43pm

@Raj Patel I totally agree. Einstein said that doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results equals insanity.

Pmahmud May 19, 2014 08:34pm

@Kapadia For your information, Law &order, education and health are provincial subjects, therefore, the issue of free goods should be directed to them. Nawaz has stabilized the financial sector the economy and is working to reduce electricity shortage. Investors go where it is safe. Tell Karachi parties to make it a safe city.Is it too much? You trying to bring in distributional issues even before the pot is cooked. What kind of consulting you do?

Rameez May 19, 2014 11:14pm

@Hammad Operation is underway??? What kind of operation is it? which never ends. It was started with PPP regime in 2008 when they got elected, Talk about something new???

Yousuf Hussain May 20, 2014 01:37am

@Pmahmud We are first Pakistani and then Karachiite, Lahori, Punjabi or Sindhi etc. While Pakistan's cannot rely only on one province or one city...every city and province contribute to Pakistan's economy and every city and province have right to better living standards. Fighting never does good to anyone nor will it do in future. While provincial government is responsible for security..but there also lies federal government responsibility to ensure provincial government is working better and if not then take the matters in their hand. While Karachi's current law and order situation is very difficult task but it is at the same time a very important task that needs urgent attention. Given Karachi's importance as a economic hub, govt needs to make sure all criminals..whichever party it belongs to has to face strict and exemplary punishment so other criminals will have to think twice before committing any crime. I am sure with commitment and honesty, govt can do it and its needs to do it for the better future of all Pakistanis and not just Sindh, Punjab ...or our other lovely provinces.

Junaid May 20, 2014 03:17am

Provide cheap internet across the nation. You will see a big improvement from small outsourcing outfits to business to business transaction. In today's world that is the priority sector even above roads.

Vineeta May 20, 2014 03:53am

Great article, no economic growth can be real unless it filters down to the people.

ma May 20, 2014 07:59am

@Raj Patel You are right but applicable to small canvass situation not to a whole country where statistics will take care of individual follies. It doesn't matter if the PM continues to do what he has done in the past along with taking care of his promise that there will be no load shedding after his term ends and if he succeed in making a deal with the TTP and bring them into mainstream politics, as he is trying to do, then the security situation will improve and rest will be done by the people. We are resourceful, hard working and a lot of us a re young.

Mystic May 20, 2014 08:55am

I thought after the much acclaimed eighth amendment, provinces had much more independence in their financial and development decisions.

If PPP wadairas are bent upon keeping the rural population underdeveloped so they can continue their social, economic and religious hold over them, nothing much can be done by the federal government.

Randomstranger May 20, 2014 10:51am

Punjab is developing because of CM Shahbaz Sharif. Other provinces need to ask Imran Khan, Zardari and Abdul Malik Baloch. As far as federal responsibility, well the government has been doing good thus far.

syed ali hussain May 20, 2014 12:03pm

PML-N policy not from now, its from the inception of this party they only focuses PUNJAB as it occurred 53% voter's of the country (either intentional or unintentional) but there actions interpreted this perception across the country. The seriousness and willingness of our prime minister showed by his attitude as he didn't have time to attend parliament sessions. Hope and pray that any government official would read this and take measures to change this perception against them. ("Perception is greater than reality")

ABL May 20, 2014 12:29pm

May i please request a good demographer to compare recent socio-economic development indicators of Pakistan with our neighboring and regional countries. Lets see where do we stand? Just to have lots of money around will not resolve our deep rooted social issues. The point is to focus on the real human development. (use Human Development Index)

ashfaq ahmad May 20, 2014 02:32pm

huh, forget about everything, even PMLN stopped KPK 6 billion rupees. also ban floor transfer to KPK. how can we call this prime minister of pak. he took his brother with him always on foreign tours.

ashfaq ahmad May 20, 2014 02:33pm

@Yousuf Hussain these woeds alwys said by punjabis, not by karachists, kpk walay, and baloch. they are talking opposite

Mohammed A. Sukhera (USA) May 21, 2014 09:10am

If we need to develop our country and seek domestic/ foreign investments, Pakistan need to work on law and order situation in the country. Once the law and order situation improves, foreign investments will start pouring in the millions of dollars every month. We have a skilled labor available at a very competitive rates, who would not want to jump in the band wagon. Secondly the government must reduce its stakes in public enterprises which are losing millions of dollars every year. Our dependence on foreign loans to meet our daily needs and transferring the burden of loans to future generations is sure sign of sick economy. The government must sell its sick enterprises and pay off foreign loans. Improvement in foreign reserves due to foreign loans and investment by state owned Chinese companies in the country is not a sign of economic progress.

Alam Gul Niazi May 21, 2014 05:24pm

"The power base of PML-N is Punjab and they have always worked effectively there", . " Not true, it is only Lahore & its surrounding districts. Check out other parts of Punjab & see how much progress has been made . Come to my home district Mianwali which is unfortunately part of Punjab instead of KPK and travel on Mianwali - Bannu road, see those pot holes stretching mile after mile..

zak the supreme May 21, 2014 06:04pm


A Pakistani May 21, 2014 08:25pm

Development in Punjab is mainly attributed to the relatively effective governance in this province under the dynamic leadership of CM Shahbaz. I wish CMs of other provinces also wake up and do a bit more for their respective people. Now resources are distributed among different provinces, provincial governments should be held more responsible instead of blaming Punjab or another province.

A Pakistani May 21, 2014 08:37pm

@Khalid Don't hold PML(N) responsible for every bad thing happening in Pakistan. Now each province gets more resources from the federal government and should show seriousness in their governance style. We don't have guts to acknowledge others assistance to our country but continue blaming them our each and every problem as is the case of USA.

Khalid May 22, 2014 01:08am

@A Pakistani I think you got me wrong. I am first a Pakistani and love every part of Pakistan the same way. Having lived in Europe for nearly 30 years, you have no idea how much I wish to go back to Pakistan and play my part. Sadly, Pakistan is nothing like the country I grew up in. What i really hate is the wastage of taxpayers money in luxuries we can not afford. Lastly, I wish you commented on the facts I mentioned whether I quoted them incorrectly. Anyway, we are all Pakistanis and ONLY when we accept what is wrong, we will do something about it.

Khalid May 22, 2014 01:09am

@Tariq, Lahore Brother Tariq, you are sopt on.

ali May 24, 2014 06:48pm

@AsR do you realize all these projects have been approved but their timely completion let alone completion itself doesnt really show a rosy picture.2 of the gaddani power plant groups based in dubai are out because theyve been sanctioned by US for oil deals with iran .rest of the projects while theyll be completed sometime however these are in gaddani.its an underdeveloped region.We dont even have high capacity power transmission cables and infrastructure to bring the electricity to national grid.Funding for that is still in pipeline.Additionaly 10 gaddani projects are worth more than $10 billion of which government will have to fund almost $2.5 billion.add the solar project in bawalpur that will cost $ 1 billion Dasu will cost $4.27 billion.Diamer basha is also in the budget allocaiton thats worth like $ 14 billion.add the motoways and the recently announced faislabad khanewal motorway and the Karachi lahore motorway and the new metro project and the giant 300 billion power subsidy.Now see our projected 2.5 trillion or $25.5 billion budget.Do you honestly see the government's seriousness when it talks about massive projects.The figures dont even add up.if you see the budget and the cost of these projects for the next 4 years as well

Asif May 26, 2014 07:39am

@Hammad Clearly you put Punjab before Pakistan. Do you know that the Federal Govt is holding back funds they owe KPP. This was raised in the parliament. If you are able to read beyond PML-N talking points, take a look.

IKE May 26, 2014 11:13pm

It is a fact that Pakistan has started a steady development. Despite the fact that bureaucracy, and politicians remain corrupt and inefficient. We can all talk about the bad stuff and live in the past, or see clearly as to what is happening on the ground. There is no magic bullet to solve all the problems in one shot. Follow the money, smart money is now entering Pakistan and in big numbers.