Economic development: how?
Even if one were to Google there are hardly any, actually no known examples neither of a country making stable economic progress while lacking good infrastructure nor in the presence of poorly functioning state institutions. Some analysts including a majority of TV media anchors may continue to believe and advocate that the world powers are uniting to render Pakistan a ‘failed state’; the real circumstances responsible for the country’s fast dilapidating economic fortunes are actually domestically skewed.
When a country’s economy is languishing with critically disgraceful ranks on the global indexes of competitiveness, there is much to analyze and criticize, especially by the media who has a galore of scandals to cover every day, review poorly performing organizations and has a non-stop stream of not-so-good news on the national economic horizon available.
Efficiency and standards of things as fundamental as infrastructure and government-owned and managed corporations and institutions are ebbing beyond acceptable limits of failure. When a country is unable to address its issues as fundamental as primary education and healthcare as in the case of Pakistan, there are reasons for raised eyebrows and frowns and not to mention the prophecies of a doomed and hopeless future.
According to the leading think-tanks and global economic development institutions, including the World Economic Forum of Davos fame and Competitive Support Fund of Islamabad origins, on the Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) Pakistan, out of 142 countries, is seriously lagging in several categories. Currently Pakistan is ranked at 107th in the category of institutions which amply highlights years and decades of poor planning, political and non-political nepotism and interventions. What it shockingly also highlights is the blatant absence of any corrective action. Once followed and emulated by the countries of Far East, today’s institutions of Pakistan have come a long distance, but unfortunately in the opposite direction it seems.
Ranked 115th in the space of national infrastructure also comes as a rude shock, again. For over all these decades one was given the impression that all the political leaderships spent the exchequer money responsibly on one extraordinary national development plan or the other. The people elected, the heavily mandated and even the last decade of powerful political government of military rulers allegedly spent thousands of billions if not more building the ‘necessary infrastructure for national development’ as they kept the hopes of the nation up.
The reality again is rather grim. Where the country stands today, still leaves a very long journey to be covered, a tedious and laborious trudge almost. A devastating realization can also be that while the work-scope has mounted the right teams are not running the right institutions leading to a more worrisome and shaky future outlook. Echelons of governance have failed to entice the more capable workforce and have to make do with those that perhaps have lower chances of getting gainfully employed elsewhere with a job security and ‘fringe benefits’ they seek. Sensible and more capable individuals have and will continue to be keener on leaving the country as trends have shown and those who can’t go aboard look for careers in more stable multinationals rather than government-managed organizations.
Other areas where Pakistan has been identified as a country which needs to pay grave and urgent attention include primary health and education. Pakistan currently stands at the 121th position out of 142 countries. Regrettably, both these areas that are identified as the fundamental pillars of competitiveness assessment continue to receive fewer resources in each budget in comparison to mounting military spending and bank payments. Indeed making the entire narrative sorely dismal for Pakistan and its economic growth potential.
The pillars on which the global competitiveness ranking are measured are: institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic environment, health, primary and secondary education and training, goods and labor market efficiency, financial market development, technological readiness, market size, business sophistication and innovation.
Pakistan stands at the lowest level, probably not even at the acceptable level of national growth. Considering the vast opportunities that keep coming its way and its geo- political significance, Pakistan’s performance by many is considered dismal and for all the right reasons. If such is the status in the most basic categories, less should be said at this point on how the country is performing in other areas of competitiveness.
There is hardly a news story on the national TV which goes without admonishing the political leadership for poor governance. Economic policies are criticized and at times horrific possible scenarios of social unrest and mayhem are vociferously shared. Such is the degree of passion with the new found ‘freedom to express’ that even things less researched are callously shared while more grave issues are overlooked routinely. Masud Alam, a senior journalist based in Islamabad, put it well when he said: “Pakistani media is increasingly getting better at being the story than covering one.”