Imran Khan in Blunderland

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While in Beijing early this month, Imran Khan waxed lyrical about Chinese President Xi Jinping’s vision and achievements. He wanted the Chinese to hand him over the recipe. On Wednesday Khan was all praise for Mahatir Muhammad for transforming the country and raising per capita income and GDP. The PM showed interest in replicating the Malaysian model.

What Imran Khan fails to realise is that the leadership in the two countries succeeded in transforming their societies by devising home grown solutions in line with their history and culture for problems like poverty, under-development and corruption. In China this was done through distribution of land to poverty stricken peasantry, state driven economic reforms, strong laws and finally a sort of state guided mixed economy. What is common in the two experiments is that both avoided war, ensured social peace, near hundred percent literacy rate and a healthy and well-trained manpower.

Attracting investments and increasing exports are among the four priority areas pointed out by Imran Khan. Achieving the aims requires reforming the country’s bureaucracy and judiciary, and reinforcing the writ of the government in areas earlier ceded to rent-seeking business interests who have now sneaked into the PTI also.

How can investors be attracted in the presence of formidable bureaucratic hurdles besides a shortage of healthy, trained and educated manpower? Khan wants exports to rise. For really gainful exports, products have to be not only compatible but also of high value. This requires concentration on knowledge based products, where China and Malaysia excel. Pakistan will have to spend billions every year on manpower training and outstanding universities capable of producing competent researchers. The bare-minimum allocated to education and health in PTI’s minibudget indicates that the party is more interested in slogan mongering than social and economic development. To regain the investors’ confidence, creating jobs and triggering economic growth the PTI government has to ensure reduction in tension in the region, especially with India. Who will invest in a country with unending border clashes and where clerics are free to stage mayhem for days and weeks, blocking traffic and posing threat to life and property while the government looks the other way? Can anybody do this in China or Malaysia?