Fiscal performance in 2023.

KARACHI -- As the western hemisphere felt the excitement of the annular solar eclipse in October, the World Bank was circulating its 2023 edition of Pakistan's fiscal performance.

Like a child knowing he had not passed every test, we sheepishly accepted our report card from a disappointed teacher. Like a mixed bag of goodies, it had material to reflect on and points to feel good about.

Unsurprisingly, Pakistan's performance is recorded as average, with concerns for its future economic stability and sustainable development running high.

The report identified domestic prices, exchange rate, fiscal balance, foreign exchange reserves, domestic political uncertainty, catastrophic flood, energy and food crisis, amidst surging world commodity prices, and global monetary tightening as the villains that stand between a great nation and her great aspirations.

Its statistics intimate that import bans on manufacturing critical components, downgraded creditworthiness, Covid effects on international trade, Ukraine war and inflated debt repayments were further striking down public's confidence in their economic and political contentment. This was on top of a recent statement by UN Resident Coordinator to Pakistan Julien Harneis that Pakistan may not be able to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

No report is complete without some statistics and numbers to tell the story. This latest review had a few to look at. In terms of Pakistan's overall performance, the figures do not garner confidence.

Since 2018, the fiscal outlook has not been very flattering for the federal government's performance and policies. It is the year when not only did Pakistan's economic performance start a downward trend but also the period when we committed to the overambitious sustainable development goals that we could never have been reasonably expected to achieve.

In 2018, Pakistan signed the UN Sustainable Development Framework (UNSDF) Programme III - OP III). This had 17 goals that had to be achieved and was an ambitious target that the then government signed off on.

Insofar as a disappointed teacher goes, there was clearly no reflection made on 'reasonably' expecting Pakistan to be able to gear up, let alone finish this allocated homework; adequate assistance totally ignored. The final verdict stated that Pakistan lacks economic and political confidence to the dismay of its people.

Before getting lost in statistical data, one must acknowledge that such reports...

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