- But the PM neglects other crucial issues
The third quarterly report of the SBP takes note of the persistence of vulnerabilities in the economy. It recognizes the slowdown in economic growth in response to policy measures taken to curb the twin deficits. The report concedes that the measures impeded manufacturing activity while the higher cost of major inputs plus other factors took a toll on crop production. It also takes note of the slowing down in the tax revenue and of the inflation stubbornly keeping an upward trajectory. A number of economists challenge some of the IMF prescriptions as counterproductive like the big rise in bank rate, which they maintain has choked the private sector without bringing down inflation. The Prime Minister has made his bed and will have to lie in it for the next 39 months.
The SBP report also underlines several other vulnerabilities that urgently need the government’s attention, food insecurity being one. While all the provinces face the problem to varying degrees, Balochistan is the worst hit. Almost half of the province’s households face mild to severe food insecurity while at least 30 percent households experience hunger on a chronic basis. Alarmingly, of the 36.9percent food insecure households in the country, 18.3 percent face severe food insecurity. According to the SBP, almost a quarter of Pakistan’s population lives below the poverty line. Malnutrition in the case of such a large section of population carries costs for the economy. Stunting, anaemia or iodine deficiencies in childhood, lead to low labour productivity and make the country unattractive to prospective investors.
The country suffers from water stress, we are told, and urgently needs water-efficient agricultural technology and water conservation schemes. Further, in case the population continues to increase at the existing pace, it will become extremely challenging for Pakistan to sustain food self-sufficiency or ensure adequate water supplies. Resolving these issues does not need IMF permission.
The government remains focused on a single-item agenda, that of maligning major opposition leaders and sending them to jail. It continues to blame the opposition for all the problems in the country. Unless it focuses on the real issues that people face, it will hurt its own standing while the country suffers a lot.