Eying the future after elections.

Can the general elections expected this year open up the path that leads to a turnaround in the political economy? Or will we just see business as usual despite the newly elected federal government in the saddle?

The earliest sign to show in which direction the country would move after elections will be whether the election campaign is focused on how the nation's key challenges are to be addressed or whether the political discourse will remain mired in power politics.

Issues in the electoral campaign need to revolve around sound home-grown strategy, programme, policy, and plan of action to facilitate much-needed structural changes in the economy.

And once approved by the electorate, the promises made to the voters need to be implemented by elected representatives. In case of a split mandate, the rival parties should come together to evolve a common programme and set the ball rolling. That would promote political stability and help improve governance. Prudent politics should precede like that in the case of the economic crisis in Malaysia in the late 1990s to put things right.

The campaigns should focus on how the nation's key economic challenges are to be addressed rather than remain mired in power politics

We live in a world that is constantly changing. At the same time, unmanageable chronic crises make it imperative to seek new ways to resolve problems, as the following observations by various analysts illustrate.

To quote an analyst, we have never evolved or executed policies required to put Pakistan's economy on sustainable growth. External loans and assistance can never solve the economic problems of the country. 'We only borrow foreign exchange from one source to repay another, and our debt is not repaid and only grows,' says former finance minister Miftah Ismail.

When Pakistan became a part of the West's war against Al-Qaida and Taliban, he recalls that much of our external debt owed to the West was written off. An externally guided development effort has not been as effective as hoped, says former finance ministry advisor Khaqan Hassan Najeeb. And he reminds policymakers we must not lose hope in our capability.

'Our troubles are not for want of capital but because of unimaginative policies,' says Humayun Akhtar Khan, adding expediency and special interests are no substitute for strategy. He suggests that the money saved must pay back remaining debts at a faster rate and investment be made in private sector productivity.


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