Poorer nation

Published May 27, 2023

AWAY from the suffocation building on the political front, figures regarding the state of the economy, approved by the National Accounts Committee and released on Thursday by the government, have ignited fresh controversy.

Quite a few among the small clique of commentators who keep a keen eye on Pakistan’s economic affairs have been expressing the apprehension that the released statistics — which show a massive deceleration in GDP growth this year — may have been manipulated.

They are pointing to what they see as glaring anomalies in the various data points used to calculate national GDP, arguing that the already dismal official calculations may, in fact, be covering up an even more devastating reality.

Whatever the case may be, the picture will become clearer once the government releases the detailed Economic Survey for the outgoing fiscal year.

Meanwhile, while those with a more academic tilt may continue to debate exactly how poorly they think the economy did over the last year, even the official figures have not been able to deny the fact that the citizenry has been left decidedly poorer by this government’s mismanagement.

According to the released data, per capita income fell to $1,568 this fiscal year, after growing from $1,677 in 2021 to $1,766 last year. This decline of a little more than 11pc translates to the fact that the country actually reversed its human development progress under the stewardship of the PML-N’s much-vaunted finance team.

In even simpler terms: the quality of life for every Pakistani citizen has experienced a sudden decline, thanks in large part to the government. While the poor faced the brunt of this devastation, the middle-income classes and the elite too could not avoid the fallout of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s reckless policies.

This much is borne out by anecdotal evidence: talk to farmers, rickshaw drivers, young professionals or C-suite executives from almost any industry today, and one finds only discontentment.

The citizenry has made difficult compromises to continue surviving amidst uncontrolled inflation, the stagnating economy and the government’s bad policies to artificially control exchange rates.

For some, these compromises have meant cutting back on meals; for others, they have meant shutting down factories. It is depressing that while the citizenry has been bled dry over this past year, there is still no push to hold the responsible to account.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2023

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