March towards a better future

Courtesy:- MALIK MUHAMMAD ASHRAF

Sitting governments all over the world, for real or perceived reasons, lack credibility and their performance invariably remains under strict scrutiny by the media, its political opponents and the elements within society who have an irresistible propensity to look askance at every thing done and said by them. Therefore, the widely accepted barometer for judging their claims with regard to performance and good governance is the endorsement of their authenticity by independent national and international entities.

The PML (N) government in Pakistan has been in the saddle for almost eleven months, trying to grapple with formidable inherited challenges like terrorism, the energy crisis, an economy in shambles and the negative fallout from the ill-conceived security paradigm and unimaginative approach to relations with neighbouring countries, especially Afghanistan. The government claims to have made substantial progress in all these areas, particularly handling the energy crisis and putting the economy back on the rails. The Annual Public Pulse Report 2014 ( Gallup Opinion Poll ) issued recently, lends currency to these claims by revealing that the performance rating of the current government has increased by 59% as compared to the previous government and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif remains the most admired leader in the country. It further acknowledges a vast improvement in the economy, dealing with terrorism, the conduct of foreign relations, controlling corruption and arresting the trend of spiralling prices.
Notwithstanding the flak hurled at the policies of the government, it is indeed hard for any anodyne observer ti refute the initiatives taken by the government in all these areas and their endorsement by the Gallup Opinion Poll. The government successfully retired the circular debt immediately after assuming responsibility and as a consequence of this move 1700MW of electricity was added to the system easing the position to some extent. Strict measures have been adopted to check power theft. New energy projects including a 2200 MW nuclear power plant at Karachi and energy park at Gaddani where ten coal-based power generating units with a cumulative capacity of 6600 would be installed, have been set rolling. Work On Neelum Jhelum and Nandipur Projects has been fast-tracked and a number of power projects to be installed in cooperation with the US are going through the negotiation process.
With regards to terrorism, the government has successfully morphed a national consensus on resolving the issue through dialogue with the TTP and so far the signals emanating from this engagement are very encouraging. The government has also choreographed a National Internal Security Policy, the first ever formal and comprehensive arrangement, to curb this menace. In the domain of foreign relations, a visionary detour has been made in regards to relations with Afghanistan and India and building regional linkages as dictated by the geographical realities and the emerging geo-political situation in the region.
On the economic front also, the strategies adopted by the government to rebuild the economy have started producing desirable results. The country has been saved from defaulting on loans by successfully negotiating a fresh loan of US$ 6.3 billion besides winning the GSP Plus status, which will enhance our textile exports to EU countries to the tune of US$ 2 billion with all its accompanying benefits. The government is also boasting of restricting the inflation of single digits, taking the GDP to a higher level, increase in exports by 5%, checking the decline in the rupee value against the dollar, a 9% increase in remittances, 16% increase in revenue collection, reducing the existing budget deficit of 8.8% to 5.5 % during the current fiscal year. Foreign Investments have also shown a rising trend. The projects connected to the perceived economic corridor would bring billions of dollars to the country. China has already shown an interest in investing US$ 22 billion in power projects in the country. A consortium of two Chinese companies has decided to set up two power plants in Pakistan, after their representatives met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his just concluded visit to China.
The improvement in the overall economic profile of Pakistan has also been corroborated by the IMF and the World Bank. The IMF chief of Mission in Pakistan, Jeffery Franks, addressing the IMF Conference Call on Pakistan recently said, “The overall economic situation in Pakistan is gradually improving. The forecast of 2.8 per cent growth rate during 2013-14 has been revised to 3.1 per cent by the IMF, which may be a bit on the conservative side. Inflation has been better than expected at around 8% and balance of payments position has also shown an upward trend. Foreign exchange reserves have gone up and IMF foresees the further strengthening of reserves. Revenues are coming in as we expected. We believe that by the end of the year Pakistan is likely meet the deficit target and bring down the deficit to 5.5 per cent of GDP from 8% of GDP last year.” Similar views have been echoed by the World Bank. A statement issued at the conclusion of the one day visit to Pakistan by the Managing Director of the World Bank said, “The increase in the country’s reserves is a good sign. Successful review by the IMF and rapid implementation of initial reform actions are positive signs.” The World Bank has reportedly also agreed to provide US$ 10.2 billion to Pakistan during the next five years for policy reforms in the energy sector, revenue mobilization, governance, social sectors and investment in hydropower.
The endorsement of the government performance by the prestigious Gallup Poll and world money lending institutions like the IMF and the World Bank puts a stamp of approval and authenticity on the policies being pursued by the PML (N) government. In view of this irrefutable evidence from independent sources, it would perhaps be pertinent to infer that the country has undoubtedly started its march towards a better future.

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