While one year is not long enough a period to evaluate impact of the policies of any government because of the time-lag required in the completion of the projects initiated for socio-economic development and the inherited challenges, but the exercise can give a fair idea of the trends set and the degree of the success achieved. However before venturing to judge the performance of the government it is imperative to take stock of the inherited challenges.

There are no two opinions about the fact that the PTI government inherited an en economy which was almost bankrupt. The country was facing enormous current account deficit, trade deficit and budgetary deficit. It was faced with the prospects of defaulting on the already taken loans. The situation was a sequel to the unimaginative policies pursued by the successive governments premised on political expediencies rather than the compelling ground realities, narrow tax base, aversion to tax culture and the existence of informal economy which according to credible sources ranged between 35-50% of the GDP and in terms of finances amounted to $85 billion. The rampant corruption was another dominant factor in keeping the economy in a volatile state. Pakistan also faced formidable challenges on the external front, particularly a debilitating chill in her relations with US, the Afghan challenge and issues related to security on its eastern borders and bellicose posturing against her by India.

Now coming to the efforts that the PTI government has made to deal with the foregoing challenges, the thing which stands out as a course correction act in the economic domain is its unremitting commitment and determination to put in place measure dictated by the ground realities keeping in view the long-term economic interests of the country without caring for the political costs involved. The major focus has been on enlarging the tax base and documenting the economy. The frequent enhancement in the prices of electricity, gas and petrol, removal of subsidies on certain items and imposition of additional taxes to narrow down the budgetary deficit, which is the mother of all economic ailments, in the short run is surely hurting some sections of the society but they are inevitable steps to cure the diseases afflicting the economy and turning it into a vibrant entity.

The government also took a daring step to document the economy. The amnesty Scheme announced by the PTI government had twin purposes i.e. documenting the economy and to welcome the business and trading community to participate in the legal economy. The major and significant difference between the PTI scheme and the one announced by the PML (N) government was that it aimed to eliminate the difference between a filer and a non-filer and blocking avenues of money laundering.

In a bid to accelerate the process of documenting the economy, PTI government made the Benami Act operational. By making this law operational, all those bank accounts and properties which were kept in the name of others would be seized and then the relevant Tribunal would decide the process of sale of confiscated bank accounts and properties under the Benami Act. Action in this regard is already on the roll. As part of government’s efforts to document the economy, the law would allow government to take strict actions against those who got their movable and immovable assets registered with fictitious person in order to evade taxes. The government obtained information from 26 countries in respect of 150000 people who have properties and assets abroad and in case they fail to declare by the given deadlines they could be awarded 7 years imprisonment as well as have their properties confiscated. It launched a crackdown on money laundering as well. It also unleashed measures to enhance exports and attract foreign investments.

The government also raised more than $15 billion from the friendly countries and the IMF to bring stability to the economy failing which the economy could have surely collapsed. The government staying true to its election pledge also unleashed a ruthless accountability process which is continuing. The NAB has already recovered billions of the filched money during this process. The government also introduced administrative reforms to improve efficiency of the public organizations besides adopting stringent austerity measures and cutting non-development expenditure. Steps were also announced to enhance exports and attract foreign investment.

As a result of the measures taken by the PTI government it can rightly take credit for reduction in the current account deficit by 30% and trade deficit by 14%. It has averted the balance of payments threat. State land worth hundreds of billions of rupees has been retrieved. The government also did not lose sight of addressing the grievances of the vulnerable sections of the society. It initiated programmes like Ehsas, shelter and food for homeless, provision of health cards to 80 million people in KPK, Sind and Balochistan, Kamyab Naujwan programme for which Rs.100 billion were allocated and securing the release of Pakistani prisoners from the jails of middle eastern countries.

Naya Pakistan Housing project, a flagship initiative of the government besides meeting the housing needs of sections of the society who cannot build houses on their own also has economic dimensions. It is likely to give boost to the construction industry and other down-stream industries leading to improvement of employment situation in the country. Environment has also been top priority of the government and its programme of planting 10 billion trees is a commendable step to save Pakistan from the devastating impact of climate change, besides the economic benefits that it will accrue. On the political front government earned the distinction of completing the process of merger of FATA in KPK and giving special development package of Rs.162 billion for the area.

The PTI government and the military leadership showed remarkable courage and determination in neutralizing Indian aggression in the wake of Pulwama incident and has rightly taken the Kashmir issue to the UNSC receiving endorsement of its stance on the issue. It has further strengthened Pakistan’s relations with China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, UAE, Afghanistan and USA. The blame game and mistrust between Afghanistan and Pakistan has been replaced with ambience of trust and cooperation due to credible and positive steps taken by the latter to promote reconciliation in that country. The chill in the relations with USA has turned into warmth due to the role that Pakistan played in facilitating dialogue between the USA and the Taliban. No wonder President Trump hinted at the possibility of mediating between Pakistan and India when Prime Minister Imran Khan visited USA and now is showing interest in defusing tensions between the two countries over Kashmir in the backdrop of the situation arising out of Indian unilateral action of ending special status of Kashmir.

On the basis of the foregoing facts, one can confidently infer that in the last one year the PYI government has been able to stabilize things on all fronts and the country is entering into the next phase of consolidating those gains.

The writer is a freelance columnist.

ashpak10@gmail.com

As a result of the measures taken by the PTI government it can rightly take credit for reduction in the current account deficit by 30% and trade deficit by 14%.