TRANSFORMING a near-failed state like Pakistan into a thriving ‘tiger economy’ in a relatively short period of, say, 10 years is an incredibly challenging task that typically requires a combination of strategies, substantial time and external support. There is no quick-fix solution, but several approaches can be pursued to expedite the process.

Foremost, it will be counterproductive to try politicians who have already proven themselves to be part of the problem rather than the solution. What Pakistan needs are successful businesspeople, bankers, industrialists and renowned economists to steer Pakistan to safe harbours for increased trade and commerce, and to bring about desperately needed changes in people’s lives. These commercially inclined experts may very well treat the whole country as an opportunity, a business enterprise, to bring about economic stability, financial growth and development.

It is vital to prioritise macroeconomic stability by addressing high inflation, fiscal deficits and unsustainable debt levels, and implement sound monetary and fiscal policies to restore confidence in the national economy.

Critical infrastructure, such as transportation, energy and telecommunications, is required to attract private investment and improve the overall business environment. It is also important to reduce dependence on a single sector or industry.

We should encourage diversification by promoting entrepreneurship and supporting the growth of multiple industries. We should open up the country’s economy to international trade by reducing tariffs and non-tariff barriers.

The need cannot be overstated to strengthen the financial sector to ensure access to credit, to promote investments, to develop a stable banking system, and to make capital markets grow. Besides, engaging in regional economic integration agreements and collabo-rations to expand market access and trade opportunities is also crucial.

Further, there is a need to enhance the capacity of government institutions to plan, implement and monitor economic policies effectively, invest in education and workforce development to enhance the skills of the population,and collaborate with the private sector to initiate and fund large-scale develop-ment projects.

A skilled workforce is vital for economic diversification and innovation. The outcome is much-needed jobs and meeting the needs of the youth. Creating a business-friendly environ-ment that attracts foreign direct investment (FDI), offers incentives, reduces red tape, and provides legal protection for foreign investors is also important in this regard.

Implementing social safety nets to protect vulnerable populations during economic reforms can mitigate social unrest and build public support for necessary changes. It is important to evolve and learn from both successes and failures.

Can all this be done without political stability? There is no chance of that ever happening. Political stability can attract foreign investment and build trust among domestic and international stakeholders. The establishment can help foster political consensus among different parties and factions to ensure continuity of policies.

Success depends on a combination of factors that include leadership, policy choices, domestic and international conditions, as well as the commitment of government, business/industry groups and civil society to sustainable development. Patience, persistence and a long-term perspective are essential in all such transformative endeavours.

Faisal Habib
Karachi

Published in Dawn, November 4th, 2023

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