Growing up in Pakistan there is a story that we have been brought up with, about how Pakistan is truly a blessed country with a land blessed with rich natural resources that are seemingly limitless. How we are one of the few countries in the world blessed with five unique seasons that allow crops of any kind to grow and flourish here. Our limitless supply of gemstones and minerals that other countries could only watch with envy. The land blessed by God by himself, a country that could rise to the pinnacle and one day without a doubt lead the world to the promised land of ‘Peace and harmony.’If any of that is true or not, few actually bothered to fact-check. Whenever faced with a conflicting account, most just chalked it up to the rants of an irrational, unpatriotic individual that was charmed by the west and a promise of sweeter shores. However, if one actually starts looking at the statistics all that noise somehow doesn’t sound all that irrelevant after all.
According to statistics from the World Bank released in 2021, Pakistan ranks 59th out of 127 countries when it comes to exports and a distressing 118th in terms of the overall trade balance. Simply means we don’t nearly export as much as we have to import. Our economic development as a nation has been abysmal, to say the least. Our 2nd highest export is cotton being $3,242,493,094 seems insignificant considering we actually import cotton worth $832,048,068.
Pakistan’s Export Growth
When discussing exports our highest export is Textile articles which comes to a total of $4,058,657,509, which seems even more insignificant considering India’s textile articles exports value at $5,163,145,754, and it is only their 18th highest export. Now one could argue that since India is a much larger country than our own it would only be unfair to compare the two. Well, sadly enough Bangladesh a country younger and far smaller than us had its textile article exports valued at $27,950,000 which is almost seven times greater than ours. This should prove without a doubt that our progress in terms of economic development has been largely a failure.
Tourism and especially ecotourism certainly has promising prospects. The country does have a wide range of landscapes and historical monuments that are of high interest in the tourism world. The country’s security situation has however not allowed much headway to be made in that sector. Our eastern neighbor Afghanistan, with its highly volatile state of affairs, right now will be in direct conflict with any tourism plans we might have as long as it remains that way.
But has it been a total failure? According to the very same World Bank, our GDP ranks 40th out of 190 countries globally, coming even three points above Bangladesh. The question then arrives, what is it exactly that is helping the country survive? Or even progress considering our GDP grew from 3.9% in 2021 to 4.0% in 2022? How did a country ranking 127 manage to grow during a global pandemic that annihilated many concrete global economies?
Pakistan has always had major economic issues and is having more now than ever before. The alarming crisis of public debt and inadequate water supply are just the tip of the iceberg for this ever unstable country. The problems seem to be extensive and impossible to solve, but scholars have predicted that there may be hope for Pakistan in a few decades if they can stay united and cooperate. If we can shift our attention to things that actually work instead of repeatedly trying to fix what can’t be fixed.
One group the country is ever indebted to is its international diaspora. Pakistan received a record $29.4 billion in remittances during 2020-21. This one group has single-handedly kept the economy afloat during times of extreme crisis and as Imran Khan, the ex-Prime Minister repeatedly called them the ‘True Heroes of the country.’ A consistent cash flow of international currency is a boon that cannot be taken lightly.
However, the fact that our remittances are currently so high isn’t exactly proof of economic development, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. People don’t leave the country to work when the country is developing, instead, they are forced to do so when it’s regressing. According to the official registrations at the bureau of emigration, from 2017-to 2019, some 884,000 Pakistanis left the country. Records indicate more than 300,000 Pakistanis left the country in 2019, which soared to a figure of 500,000 in 2020. This constant brain drain of our best and brightest is a huge deterrent to any development plan.
What then does a country do since its economic development has been mostly lackluster and any future progress seems hindered, to say the least? So, taking a page out of our former colonial master’s playbook, Pakistan decided to look towards the water. Pakistan has been ‘blessed’ with a prime beachfront property that many landlocked nations do actually view with envy. The Gwadar port is not only of immense interest to the Chinese looking to move away from the South China Sea but also to most of the Central Asian Republics that would love access to a nearby port from where they can send out all their exports worldwide. This is an aspect that Pakistan has firmly grasped and made the focal point of all future economic development.
With major investments from China at around $6.1 billion with a total of $10 billion promised, the nation is all-around obsessed with developing the infrastructure necessary to support the major trade route. This would bring numerous benefits to the host nation. While developing the required infrastructure and taking advantage of the income generated it can finally utilize that to focus on its own industry that has been left lacking for so long. It can finally tap into all those ‘blessings’ the nation has with the means to export them already at its disposal.
Instead of focusing on how to create, the main focus, for now, is on how to facilitate. The Covid-19 pandemic did cause much hindrance but due to the country’s admirable handling of it, progress has so far gone smoothly. At a time when the people around the world were protesting against lockdowns, the people in Pakistan fully supported the government’s smart lockdown measures and followed SOPs ensuring smooth recovery. A global pandemic is however sadly not the only issue being faced so far. Terrorism, political disruptions, regional grievances, and our neighbor India ever trying to sabotage it at every step of the way.