PIDE Reforms Manifesto To Revitalise Pakistan's Economy, Social Fabric

The manifesto is a compelling call to action for a brighter future, shaping a narrative of progress and transformation, offering a strategic guide for policymakers and stakeholders to navigate policy complexities

PIDE Reforms Manifesto To Revitalise Pakistan's Economy, Social Fabric

With a comprehensive electoral manifesto yet to come forth from major political parties about the way forward for Pakistan after the February 8 elections, the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) on Monday unveiled a detailed roadmap, highlighting substantial reforms required to put lead key sectors of Pakistan out of their current state of disarray.

The PIDE unveiled its "Reform Manifesto: Transforming Economy and Society" at an event in Islamabad on Monday. The manifesto is based on the institute's research from the past four years, along with insights deliberated during various conferences, seminars, and consultative meetings during this period. Thus, the manifesto is not just another document; it is a roadmap that aims to revolutionise Pakistan's economic landscape and social fabric.

Delving into the core imperative of implementing substantial reforms, the manifesto is a compelling call to action for a brighter future, shaping a narrative of progress and transformation and offering a strategic guide for policymakers and stakeholders to navigate policy complexities.

Elections on February 8

During the event, Caretaker Federal Information Minister Murtaza Solangi, the chief guest, dispelled rumours of any delay in elections. He asserted that the upcoming elections will occur on Thursday, February 8, 2024. 

He further assured the public that all assumptions and rumours surrounding the elections had been addressed and that the caretaker setup had created an environment of transparency and credibility in the electoral process.

Emphasising the significance of the election manifesto, Minister Solangi highlighted crucial issues such as the economy, foreign policy, education, and health. He stressed the importance of holding an open discourse on fundamental issues and urged an increased collective consciousness among the people. 

Addressing challenges like population growth, he underscored the need to control the country's demographic surge.

Solangi also called for inculcating democratic attitudes within political parties, asserting that fostering such values was pivotal for the country's progress. 

With a hopeful tone, he expressed confidence that together, they could uncover workable solutions to the nation's real problems.

Pakistan and economics: The melody of grief

Earlier in his opening remarks, PIDE Vice Chancellor Dr Nadeemul Haque said the economic challenges facing Pakistan persist despite being subject to 24 programmes of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), leaving the nation on the brink of default and trapped in a cycle of current account and fiscal deficits.

He added that domestically, the country is reeling from excessive government regulation, particularly from a bureaucratic system which had been inherited from colonial masters, which hampers the growth of the formal market. He estimated the government's interference to be about 64% of the economy. 

Additionally, a regulatory cost of up to 45% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) further restricts investment opportunities.

Dr Haque believed that our democratic systems are rooted in colonial-era ideologies, which create unsustainable debt levels and a patronage-driven political landscape that confuses local and national priorities. 

Antiquated institutions, resistant to reform, repel talent and hinder adaptation to the modern global economic environment, leading to a continuous cycle of crises.

Despite these challenges, Dr Haque said hope lies in Pakistan's youthful population who year for change. 

Dr Haque's proposed deep reforms advocate for a complete overhaul of the country's governance structures, including the bureaucracy, judiciary, and democratic systems, to harness the potential of the 21st century. 

This transformative vision emphasises the need for markets to function efficiently, talent to be nurtured, and the country to evolve with the times. 

However, he feared resistance from entrenched colonial structures and a lack of policy and reform capacity to perpetuate the crisis narrative. 

The call to action in the manifesto implores political parties, media, and civil society to engage in discussions surrounding these reforms, recognising that a continuous process of learning and evolution is essential for Pakistan to break free from its inherited colonial system and navigate towards sustained growth.

Its the economy

Dr Durre Nayab, the pro-vice chancellor at PIDE, highlighted Pakistan's critical challenges. She emphasised that addressing the changing demography and managing the escalating debt burden requires sustained and elevated economic growth. 

According to PIDE estimates, the demographic bulge is projected to persist until 2056, necessitating the addition of over two million new jobs annually for the next 30 years.

Dr Nayab stressed that achieving and maintaining an economic growth rate well above 7% annually was imperative to meet this demand. 

Drawing attention to India's successful track record of consistent growth over the past two decades, she underscored the feasibility of such ambitious goals. Pointing towards PIDE's research, she said it indicates a comprehensive strategy consisting of deep reforms was essential for fostering the necessary growth. 

Dr Nayab also expressed concern over declining productivity, particularly in export and subsidy-seeking sectors, urging concerted efforts to reverse this trend for sustained economic prosperity.

In a candid statement, Dr Ahmed Waqar Qasim, a senior research economist at PIDE, highlighted the significant challenges posed by Pakistan's civil bureaucracy, which operates within a system devised during colonial times. 

Emphasising the outdated nature of Pakistan's bureaucratic structures and policy processes, he expressed concern over their incapacity to effectively address the complexities of the modern world.

Dr Qasim further highlighted the bureaucratic hurdles impeding growth, innovation, and development. Unnecessary regulatory burdens, dead capital, and policy control hinder progress, creating a management system resistant to professionalisation and modernisation.

He criticised the outdated human resource management system, which prioritises seniority over achievements and performance, maintaining archaic training and payment structures. The colonial practice of tying positions to material perks such as houses, cars, and plots while ignoring a culture where incentives are tied to performance results in a drain of talent from the public sector.

Dr Qasim called for urgent reforms to align the management system with the needs of the 21st century, emphasising merit-based evaluations and dismantling the antiquated practices hindering genuine talent from contributing effectively to the public sector.

A modern manifesto

Addressing the historical backdrop of Pakistan's policy malaise, the manifesto delves into the persistent colonial-era bureaucracy, estimating that government interference encompasses nearly 64% of the economy. This bureaucratic overreach, combined with a regulatory cost equivalent to 45% of the GDP, has proven detrimental to investment and overall economic growth.

The report also sheds light on Pakistan's political system, which has evolved around patronage rather than ideology. This approach results in unsustainable debt levels and muddles local politics with national agendas, further complicating governance and public investment.

Looking ahead, the manifesto calls for a radical reevaluation of policy-making, governance, and business practices for the country, by the country and of the country, stressing the need for a continuous process of reform driven by learning and evolution to address the deep-rooted social and economic problems facing Pakistan.

The report concludes by encouraging political parties, media, and civil society to actively discuss these proposed reforms. It underscores the importance of embracing change as a societal norm to pave the way for a more prosperous and sustainable future for Pakistan.