KARACHI: A round-table discussion on ‘The current economic crisis/immediate steps to be taken’ organised by Concerned Citizens Alliance in collaboration with the Pakistan Medical Association has several responsible and thinking Karachiites dilating upon the burning issue and giving their input as to what to do about Pakistan’s ailing economy.

Economist and author of Dou Pakistan (two Pakistan) Kazim Saeed said that the situation seemed hopeless to only those who did not understand it. “Though the situation is critical, it is not a matter of ‘no light at the end of the tunnel’. We should think about how we got here and what to do after we come out of the ICU to not get here again,” he said while adding that countries which had ended their poverty had also very quickly added value to their products and services.

“Instead of going after small fixes and loans there is a need to look at the real illness. Breaking the mafias is crucial right now. It’s time to take such discussions,” he said, adding that by ‘mafias’ he also means the legal mafias such as the value chain of sugar and flour as their structures are making the country dependent. “The farmer who grows sugar cane or wheat should also get his earnings. There is too much wastage in our resources,” he added.

Vice President of Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry Engineer M.A. Jabbar said that the country was in a state of confusion.

Express shock at looming economic crisis in country

“The state of affairs is not good. The academia here is also lethargic. Then half of the population of grown-ups here have also not been to school. The IMF speaks of tax reforms but we also need a neutral party for assessing tax returns. We need indigenous solutions, which are also sustainable,” he said.

Former Director of the Applied Economics Centre at Karachi University Prof Samina Khalil said that the academia was not lethargic though it was undermined. “Think tanks and research institutes in Pakistan do carry out extensive research but our government has no value for their findings. The government doesn’t think data is important, either. When our bureaucrats don’t see the importance of data, then what to say about the government?” She said.

“All government policies in education, health, climate, etc, are not backed by proper research or plans for implementation,” she added.

Earlier, Dr Mirza Ali Azhar, coordinator for the Concerned Citizens Alliance, said that he did not see any light at the end of the tunnel as far as the country’s economy was concerned. “We can’t see any foreseeable improvement in our current economic situation as we all know it,” he said.

“However, we don’t want to feel hopeless as this nation is not without potential. We have, after all, come out of worse situations in the past. But this time, on one hand there is an economic meltdown and on the other we have lavish dining at weddings, we see expensive restaurants full. We are producing the poorest of the poor while there is a vulgar display of money. How does one get out of this quagmire?” He wondered aloud.

Azhar Jalil, the moderator of the discussion, said that the ruling elite had again put Pakistan in a position where it had to accept International Monetary Fund terms. “The poor man’s back is being broken,” he said.

“Instead of offering unnecessary perks in all government departments and armed forces, there should be at least 20 per cent reduction in all these expenditures. And all income regardless of its sources must be taxed while indirect taxes that are crushing the poor should be removed. The minimum wage and EOBI benefits must be implemented and also extended to domestic servants,” he said.

Senior journalist Afshan Subohi, industrialist Bashir JanMohammad, engineer and social activist Naeem Sadiq and Director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research Karamat Ali also spoke.

Published in Dawn, February 6th, 2023

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