IT is a fundamentally well-intentioned idea, but it remains an elusive dream thanks to our incredibly polarised political landscape.
The desire for a charter of economy, which has echoed with irregular frequency over the past few years and acquired increasing urgency as of late, is an indication that our politicians have started to come to terms with the impermanence of government tenure and the problems created by the subsequent lack of policy continuity.
The need for it was expressed once again by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during his address to the nation on the occasion of 75 years of Pakistan’s independence.
Editorial: Charter of the economy
The idea for a charter of economy builds on the Charter of Democracy signed by PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and the PPP’s late chairperson Benazir Bhutto in London in 2006. After years of rivalry saw them repeatedly conspire against and undermine each other, to the country’s general detriment, the Charter of Democracy set certain ground rules for how politics would be fought in Pakistan between the two major parties.
In much the same way, the proposed charter of economy will likely set red lines that the signing parties will agree not to cross in their fight for power. The need for such rules has been felt increasingly over the past few years as the country has stumbled from one crisis to another while successive governments keep leaving the tough job of implementing economic reforms to their respective successors.
The idea is that if politicians sign on to a common reforms agenda and agree to keep it off the table while they bicker and fight over everything else, the economy will at least get some space to stabilise and grow with a measure of continuity.
The current government, led by the PML-N, has made an effort to stick to the difficult measures it was prescribed to lift the economy out of the deep crisis it was found mired in after the PTI government was sent home. Though it has backtracked on some important decisions, the government has largely stuck to its guns.
The PML-N has paid a heavy political price for its decisions and must be commended for them. It is understandable why the prime minister wishes not to see the sacrifices go in vain. However, there can be no breakthrough on this matter till the PTI is also engaged in the talks and it realises that it lacks the capacity to single-handedly steer the economy and needs such a charter as much as its rivals do.
There are people in both camps who remain obstinate in their refusal to engage with the other. Till such immaturity holds sway, there is little hope for sense to prevail. It is high time that all parties realise that negotiation on the economy does not need to be held hostage to political rivalries.
Published in Dawn, August 16th, 2022