WITH the kind of year 2022 the country had, it is only understandable that people are desperately hoping that the current year will be able to revive hope and create opportunities. Having said that, a year is just that; a year, a marker of time. It cannot change anything. Only we can. Whether 2023 will be a year different from its predecessor or it will have more of the same will be determined by what we do during the year.

If anything, it is time to start afresh. We need to work on nation-building by integrating provinces and ethnicities. On a parallel track, we should invite leading economists and thought leaders to help identify complex and critical issues, and suggest ways to manage them.

There should be a focus on socio-economic development and sustained GDP growth of six per cent, improved GDP allocation in education and health year after year. There should be efforts made to improve relationships and resolve disputes with our neighbours through an effective foreign policy, realising and optimising the huge potential of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) with respect to regional security and economic prosperity.

We need to create attractive investment opportunities, achieve macroeconomic stability, control inflation, ensure a balanced economy, and improve internal capacity, self-reliance, resilience and adaptability. It will help if we focus on using information technology (IT) applications to improve overall management capacity.

There should be a plan for poverty alleviation and for reducing unemployment through human resource development. It is vital to help improve the income and quality of life of the labour force, especially farmers and skilled workers.

Above all, it is necessary to resolve internal political disputes in favour of national sovereignty, security and prosperity. We should learn from history and revisit the teachings of our religion and the guiding principles outlined by the Quaid-i-Azam. Our judicial system should offer equality, justice and fair play for all, as enshrined in the Constitution.

We must realise the potential of overseas Pakistanis and their eagerness to contribute. Given a chance, they can help reverse the brain drain and help Pakistan get out of its tight spot. We should also diversify our international relationships to mitigate geopolitical risks to Pakistan through good governance. Let us focus on connecting and building relationships with many more countries on a par with Pakistan’s all-weather friendship with China.

The reality in the 21st century is that countries cannot escape politics, nor can they consistently pretend to be politically neutral. We need to engage politically and diplomatically with all while focussing on nation-building.

Many Pakistanis, like many nations around the world, love to set new year resolutions, but fail within the first quarter to keep the momentum going. If that continues to be the case, the year 2023 will be no different from what we saw in 2022. The stakes are surely high.

Faisal Habib
Karachi

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2023

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