Our elite's bankruptcy.

'God gave Noah the rainbow sign, no more water, the fire next time.'

AS Pakistan's difficulties in meeting its external payment obligations deepen, its elitist policymakers, both past and present, are inclined to believe that the country got into this mess because of a host of recent external factors - the post-pandemic super cycle in commodities, Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the US Federal Reserve's change of tack, biblical floods at home.

The entrenched conventional wisdom also appears to be that managing the mounting payment difficulties and debt distress (or, in this case, a near-certain default on the current path) is Pakistan's only challenge, and that averting the inevitable in the short run by kicking the can down the road will be 'mission accomplished' for the incumbent political set-up and its architects.

For a country that is experiencing its 13th balance-of-payments crisis since 1988, and is in its 23rd Fund programme since 1958, this argument can only wash with the cognitively inert. Placing the two figures quoted above in context (13 and 23), gives some perspective of how deep-rooted and protracted the country's economic malaise has been.

Pakistan is one of the foremost protracted users of IMF resources globally, spending, by my estimate, a cumulative of 34 years in various IMF programmes since independence. This suggests that it has slipped into a new Fund programme once in less than every three years of its existence on average.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Sri Lanka comes close, with a total of 16 IMF programmes under its belt since its independence in 1948. (Argentina, a serial defaulter on its sovereign debt, has approached the IMF 22 times since 1956).

It will also be illustrative to see a breakdown of the number of IMF programmes undertaken by each political party by its tenure in government since 1988. PML-N has four IMF programmes under its belt, PPP six, two under Gen Musharraf, and one by PTI.

Power elites have their heads in the sand regarding the country's frequent and multiple crises.

This should put paid to any politics that each of these political parties has played at various times with regard to seeking a bailout from the Fund, especially in 2018 and 2019 when the then PTI government was dithering on signing off on a loan arrangement with the IMF and the very same PPP and PML-N that are in power today were hauling it over the coals for petty political mileage.

While Pakistani elites believe that everyone and...

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