Three failures

Dr Farrukh Saleem
Sunday, May 22, 2022

Economic failure: In 2018, when the PTI formed the government, national debt and liabilities stood at Rs30,000 billion. By 2022, the same had grown to Rs51,000 billion. Imagine, between 1947 and 2018, a period of 71 years, we took on debt amounting to Rs30,000 – and then in a matter of about four years we took on an additional Rs21,000 billion.

In 1960, Pakistan’s GDP stood at $3.75 billion. Between 1960 and 2018, for a good 58 years, GDP steadily grew from $3.75 billion to $315 billion. In 2019, for the first time in 58 years, GDP actually fell to $297 billion. The following year, GDP fell again to $262 billion (for the current year, the provisional estimate on GDP growth is 5.9 per cent).

Circular debt in the electricity sector grew from Rs1,100 billion in 2018 to Rs2,500 billion by 2022. In 2018, at the end of the PML-N led government, circular debt in the gas sector stood at Rs350 billion. By April 2022, at the end of the PTI-led government, the same had grown to Rs1,500 billion. By the end of March 2022, circular debt at Pakistan State Oil (PSO) stood at a colossal Rs658 billion. By the end of December 2021, Public Sector Enterprises (PSEs) were indebted to the tune of Rs2.7 trillion.

By the end of December 2021, debt under ‘commodity operations’ stood at Rs889 billion. Lo and behold, by the end of the current fiscal year, our trade deficit is estimated to hit a high of $50 billion, the highest-ever since 1947.

Governance failure: Imagine, Punjab given to Buzdar. Punjab has seen seven Inspectors General of Police come and go with an average tenure of 6 months; five chief secretaries with an average tenure of 8 months. At the federal level, there’s been four finance ministers with an average tenure of 10 months each. Asad Umar blamed the PML-N. Asad Umar lasted eight months. Hafeez Shaikh blamed Asad Umar. Hafeez Shaikh lasted 23 months. Shaukat Tarin blamed Hafeez Shaikh. There’s been eight FBR chairmen and four BOI chairmen.

Governments cannot deliver without teamwork. And, when teamwork happens things change for good for the people. Two conclusions: the PTI did not have a team and there was no ‘common vision’ within the government.

Diplomatic failure: Important states – including the United States, China and Saudi Arabia – moved away from Islamabad. There’s a global movement towards ‘evidence-based foreign policymaking’ but the PTI ran an emotion-driven foreign policy topped up by seriously imprudent outbursts by the prime minister himself. Remember, the “Taliban have broken the shackles of slavery.” The US suspended Pak-US strategic dialogue and downgraded its diplomatic relations with Pakistan by not appointing a full ambassador since 2018.

Early on there were anti-CPEC statements from PTI cabinet ministers. Then came the PM’s speech at the UN General Assembly with the PM’s oratory on forming a ‘new bloc within the Islamic countries’. Remember, Saudi Arabia pressed Pakistan to return $1 billion. In April 2021, the “European Parliament called on the Commission and the European External Action Service to immediately review Pakistan’s eligibility for GSP+ status.”

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad. He tweets @saleemfarrukh and can be reached at: