Aseminar on “Pakistan’s Economy: Challenges and Way Forward” was organized by Institute of Strategic Studies, Research and Analysis (ISSRA) at National Defence University (NDU) on June 28, 2019.
The panel of speakers included Advisor to the Chief Minister of Punjab on Economic Affairs and Planning, Dr. Salman Shah, Dean and Director IBA, Dr. Farrukh Iqbal, Executive Director, Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Dr. Abid Qaiyum Suleri, President Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Almas Haider, and Chairman FBR Mr. Syed Muhammad Shabbar Zaidi. Dr. Ashfaque Hasan Khan, Principal and Dean, School of Social Sciences & Humanities (NUST) chaired and moderated the seminar. A large number of economy experts, think tanks and representatives of business community attended the seminar.
In his introduction, Dr. Khan highlighted the linkage of economy and security. He quoted Paul Kennedy – a British historian specializing in the history of international relations and economic power – saying, "a nation's military strength rests on its economic strength". Dr. Khan went on to quote Robert McNamara, the Former President of World Bank, when he stated, “Security means development and without development there is no security". He thus reiterated the relationship between economy and security, emphasizing that if the economy is weakened, the country's national security will weaken.
The seminar dilated on ways of overcoming the budget deficit, low tax collection base, circular debt, loss ridden public sector enterprises, fiscal indiscipline, undocumented economy, weak institutional capacity, low exports, meeting federal obligations within existing NFC arrangements and the perceptions surrounding the prevailing economic environment.
In his keynote address, Advisor to Prime Minister on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs, Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, dilated upon reasons which resulted into increase in these challenges. He recounted perpetual security threats, inconsistent economic policies, poor economic discipline and lack of will to take difficult decisions in the past as major contributors to the economic situation that the government is facing today.
Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa thanked NDU for organizing the seminar, the panel, and the attendees for their participation. COAS stated, “Such interactions are important to enable both government and other stakeholders in exchanging their views on issues of national importance.” He endorsed the undeniable link between security and the economy. COAS said that there cannot be any sovereignty in the absence of economic sovereignty. He highlighted Pakistan’s efforts for restoring regional peace that will lead to better trade connectivity. Talking about regional connectivity, COAS reiterated that, “Countries cannot develop individually, it’s the region which develops. For our region to develop we need to have greater regional connectivity amongst all neighbors.” On current economic situation the COAS further stated, “We are going through a difficult economic situation due to fiscal mismanagement. We have been shying away from taking difficult decisions. The armed forces played their part by voluntarily foregoing annual increase in defense budget and this is not the only step we are taking for the improvement of economy. We understand that the government has gone for difficult but quintessential decisions for long-term benefits and what we are doing is playing our part. We all need to fulfill our responsibilities in this regard so that these difficult initiatives succeed. There are examples in recent past when other countries also confronted similar challenges and they came out successfully after taking difficult decisions. We shall also wade through these challenges”.
The COAS concluded, “In difficult times no individual can succeed alone unless the nation comes together. It’s time to be a nation.”
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