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Nawaz Sharif
Pakistan Finance Minister On The New P.M.
Jun-2013 | Nawaz Sharif (Bio) (Prime Minister, Pakistan)
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As the Prime Minister, in his address to the nation has said, a new beginning in Pakistan is about to start. He has given the message of HOPE and OPTIMISM. He has declared that Pakistanis are second to none and that our destiny is nothing but progress. He will lead the nation to a new world, where Pakistan will regain its lost status in the comity of nations, reassert its due respect and identity in the world and elicit due reverence and dignity in return.

 

On the economic front he has laid out comprehensive agenda of reform to reinvigorate the economy, spur growth, maintain price stability, provide jobs to the youth and rebuild the key infrastructure of the country. My enthusiasm, however, is seriously dampened as I discover that the new government is inheriting a broken economy. From economic growth to prices, from revenues to expenditure, from public debt to circular debt, from monetary expansion to interest rates, from exchange rate to foreign exchange reserves and sustainability of balance of payments, I wish I could identify one single area where their economic management was in the best national interest.


Indeed, there has been complete absence of management rather the economy was run on autopilot and its inherent strengths and weaknesses played out at their own without any real contribution of policy. Viewed in this perspective, the verdict of the last elections may be termed as the public accountability of the mismanagement practiced at an unprecedented level by the outgoing government.


Under the leadership of Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif our party is determined to turn the tide and not just restore the health of the economy but take it to new heights by enabling it to realize its full potential. At the outset, I would like to articulate the economic vision that will be guiding our efforts in rebuilding the economy. It comprises the following elements:


First, we want to build an economy that is not dependent on others except through trade and investment, based on competitive advantage and market considerations. We are a strong nation of nearly 185 million people and a nuclear power. As much as we need to defend our frontiers, we need to protect our economic sovereignty also, which would only be possible when we refuse to live on handouts and foreign goodwill. Self-reliance has to be our real goal, for only then we will earn the needed respect in the ranks of the nations.


Second, the private sector has to be the lynchpin of economic activities, shouldering the largest burden of economic functions. A government too occupied in carrying out business activities that can best be done by the private sector through a market mechanism is indeed a prescription for distorting the entire economic system and creating inequities in its functioning. Of course, markets have to be regulated so that competitive environment is ensured.  Indeed, because we were too occupied in managing businesses we have grossly neglected the regulatory role of the government, to the detriment of safeguarding consumers’ interests.


Third, the only areas where government’s presence in economic affairs can be justified is where investments are too large for private sector to undertake and/or markets are unlikely to function for lack of adequate commercial returns even though social returns will be very high, such as in education, health, population welfare and large infrastructure projects. Since social sector functions have been devolved to provinces, and for whom we will make adequate resources available, at the federal level our primary focus would be to radically alter and upgrade the fast depleting physical infrastructure of the country, most notably in the case of power sector where widespread shortages are seriously stifling the growth potential of our economy.


Fourth, all segments of the population must share the burden of resource mobilization for running the government.  The culture of exemptions and concessions must end to build a self-reliant economy. By the same token, if for reasons noted earlier, government has to undertake an economic service, full cost of operations must be recovered.  Non-recovery of cost, through subsidies and non-payment, may provide temporary relief, but it is an assured prescription for disruptive supplies and unviable operations for the companies providing those services.


Fifth, government must limit itself within the broader limits imposed by the available resources, primarily determined by revenues collected through different taxes. On this account government’s performance generally has been dismal, as it has been incurring expenditures far in excess of our income.


Sixth, we have to protect our weak and poor segments of population. People of this country or for that matter any other nation, are our real strength. The marginalized groups represent a reservoir of potentialities which if realized will change the destiny of any nation. It is in this perspective that we have to treat our poor and weak segments of population with care and inclusion. Such are also the groups most vulnerable to extremist ideologies if neglected. Building a reliable and accessible social safety net for these peoples is an imperativethat we will be committed to fulfill.


Even though this is a simple vision we have strayed from this path for a long period of time. In the meanwhile, powerful interest groups have emerged who would like the country to continue to walk along the familiar but distorted path. In our view, we have lost considerable time in failing to give a predictable and stable path to our economy. We should not waste any more time in creating a definite and unmistakable direction for our economy so that investors can make long-term decisions, both domestic and foreign and our identity, inherent in the above vision, is firmly established in the eyes of the world
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