Hazards of neglecting the home work

  • PTI’s search for quick fixes

The country is paying a heavy price for the government’s belated recourse to IMF. The delay underlines the fact that despite the pre-election claims that the PTI had a strong team which had already prepared detailed policy papers on economic and social reforms, the party was entirely clueless on how to manage the major economic issues when it was catapulted into power.

It has taken the PML-N nearly two months to decide what to do with the IMF. Compared to the PTI, the PML-N had done its homework before taking over in 2013. Within days of coming to power, PML-N’s finance minister held his first meeting with IMF mission chief for Pakistan Jeffrey Franks. In less than a month Pakistan and IMF signed an agreement on a $5.3 billion bailout package.

The PTI’s lack of clarity on economic policy has led to a continuing hemorrhage of the stock market. Market participants want to know how much funding is coming from financial institutions and what role the investment from Saudi Arabia will play. The rupee meanwhile continues to weaken despite being thrice devalued earlier this year. The volatility is due to reports of delay in the IMF bailout package till December.

Whenever questioned about how the PTI would manage the fast depleting forex reserves, pat would come the reply that the PTI government would bring back the looted wealth which would be enough to fill the state’s coffers. Nobody in the leadership had any idea of the amount of the wealth stashed abroad or how long it will take to retrieve it. Another wishful claim was that an appeal from Imran Khan to patriotic Pakistanis working abroad would lead to a spate of millions of additional greenback to Pakistan. Now that the hollowness of the claims is fully revealed, the party blames the previous governments for having left the treasury empty. Explanations do not cure a disease.

Highly irresponsible statements about CPEC by the information minister and advisor on commerce, textile, industry and production and investment have already created misunderstandings with China. There are genuine fears that any further mishandling could harm the relationship with the most reliable friend of the country.