States and Markets | The Year 2022 Was Pakistan's 'Annus Horribilis'

States and Markets | The Year 2022 Was Pakistan's 'Annus Horribilis'
Exactly thirty years ago, marred by a succession of scandals involving the British royal family, the late Queen Elizabeth labeled the year 1992 annus horribilis, exclaiming it was “not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure.”

2022 has been a very tough year for Pakistan. Rattled by an unending polycrisis—overlapping political, economic and climate crises—the country seems to be sliding deeper and deeper into disorder. As we get ready to say adieu to this year, it is time to take stock of these various crises and to suggest some strategies so that the next year can be better than this one, if only marginally.

The climate crisis in Pakistan manifested itself this year through the worst floods this country has ever seen. At last count, the cost of damage and losses stood at a staggering $28 billion as the province of Sindh remained the epicenter of the destruction with water yet to recede from some areas even right now.

Though the federal government’s response was slow at first, the federal government was able to provide cash relief to the flood-affected people through the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP). But, Pakistan lagged woefully behind in inter-provincial coordination during and after these floods.

Going forward, Pakistan’s policymakers should contemplate two interventions to better deal with future climate catastrophes, which, sadly, are increasing due to climate change. First, an inter-provincial disaster management & coordination council should be notified immediately so that the provinces can come together during future crises in order to share their personnel and resources. If such a council had been notified, the government of Punjab could have mobilized public sector doctors and teachers for Sindh’s hour of need.

Second, Pakistan needs to raise a National Volunteer Corps of young men and women with basic training in providing disaster relief, first aid and education in the catastrophe-hit areas. Such dedicated young men and women could have provided relief services on the ground—setting up mosquito nets and distributing mosquito repellents—while also setting up temporary schools in flood-hit areas.

This year Pakistan’s also suffered tremendously from the still-ongoing political crisis. Ever since the no-confidence vote in April, the political system has struggled to find equilibrium. The chaos in the political system has reached such a high magnitude that there is now a real danger that entropy will not come down even after the next general elections.

What needs to happen immediately is that all political parties need to sit down in order to agree on a charter of democracy 2.0. What this means is that all stakeholders need to agree that democracy will remain the only game in town and that players will abide by the rules of this game. Such an agreement was successfully reached by two biggest political parties in 2006. It is now time to open the field to all participants within the political arena. Short of this, the next general elections will only serve to increase—not decrease—political chaos.

Pakistan’s economic crisis though partially a result of the global economic turmoil, was largely brought about by fundamental uncertainty in the wake of the political crisis. Alarmingly, Pakistan’s political crisis is far from being over and thus expectations regarding uncertainty have, to quote economists, become entrenched. On top of all this, some partisan analysts are deliberately trying to stir up a frenzy about Pakistan defaulting so that the “system” can be pushed into calling early general elections—this is very dangerous since this bargaining tactic can easily turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Despite challenges, economic policymakers have a path available to them through October 2023. But, they must stay the course with a tight fiscal and monetary regime, avoid politically-motivated subsidies and remain in the IMF program. In so doing, policymakers must not forget the most-vulnerable sections of the society, who are going to be significantly impacted by these policy measures. This government should find the means to double BISP stipends and widen the program’s reach, while also providing relief in the shape of free electricity and subsidized fuel to poor citizens.

2022 has been our annus horribilis as Pakistan remains in the clutches of a polycrisis, sliding deeper into disorder. But, this year is almost over.

The writer completed his doctorate in economics on a Fulbright scholarship. He can be reached at