The outgoing year has proved eventful on more accounts than one. When it comes to Economic fronts of the country, Pakistan’s economy continued to maintain its growth momentum during the last fiscal year says a yearly report issued by the Government of Pakistan, but many are of the view that despite revival of growth, Pakistan’s economy faces grave risks and vulnerabilities, however some leading economic managers of the country identified that the economic growth has enhanced with revival in manufacturing and agriculture. The previous year proved to be long and hard for bankers, brokers and the barons. Despite being politically tumultuous it brought joy in the life of the majority of people with upswing both in agriculture and industry. The twin current account and balance of payment deficits were alarming but less interrupted power of supply controlled inflation and a moderate pickup in the job market lifted the pall of gloom as the light at the end of the long tunnel reached masses aspiring for a secure decent life. In a country of the worst performing capital market, index of the GDP growth rate in the calendar year is expected to be around 6%, the highest since the revival of democracy in 2008. In 2017 Improvement in the quality of growth has proved that the benefits would be more widely shared across classes and regions in the country. The present government deserves due credit for the turnaround based on comparatively solid grounds. It would however be hard to imagine such gains without China’s valuable input. Investments in energy and infrastructure projects remained high however the year was not good for the capital market investors. From 47, 807 points at the start of the year it hiked to 57, 876 in May 2017 but in December last year it started falling down as KSE-100 index has crashed down to 39,471 points. Therefore market capitalisation shrunk from Rs 9.692 trillion to Rs 8.360 trillion. Dr. Nadeen Javed, Chief Economist planning commission of Pakistan was confident enough that the economic growth achieved in year 2017 was more inclusive. He further revealed, “Agriculture growth in calendar 2017 was the highest in the five years. In a country where 60pc of the population is linked directly or indirectly with the agrarian economy, a dollar gain in agriculture equals 2 US dollars in other sectors”. While explaining the whole situation he said, “except for inflation and rupee revaluation, all other projections turned out to be realistic. Inflation was less than anticipated, but other expectations on expansionary policies, reluctance of the government for major structural reforms and the progress on CPEC was on the dot”.
According to the official statement regarding the long-term plan, “By 2025, the CPEC building shall be basically done, the industrial system approximately complete, major economic functions brought into play in a holistic way, the people’s livelihood along the CPEC significantly improved, regional development more balanced and all the goals of Vision 2025 achieved.” The largest sector under CPEC is energy, where shortages have long been the bane of our economy. The government is now examining a proposal to replace the US dollar with the Chinese yuan for trade between China and Pakistan.
Inflation was contained thanks to factors like lower international petroleum prices, which has begun to rise, and a stable Pakistani rupee, which has started to weaken.
The agriculture sector is expected to have recorded growth of 3.5% in 2016-17, largely on the back of a rebound in the cotton crop, while industrial growth is provisionally estimated at 5%, against a target of 7.7%. The services sector is estimated to have expanded by 6% in the current fiscal year. While the official target for growth in GDP for the current year is likely to have been missed, the government can claim some comfort from the provisional increase recorded in the overall size of the economy. The 5.3% growth in GDP is the highest in the last ten years (since 2007).
When it comes to the political regime of the country the year remained tumultuous with regards to this particular phenomenon. Political chaos hit the economy, and hit it hard. The chaos gained momentum with the formation of the Panama case JIT in April and then culminated with the Islamabad sit-in by a faction of the religious right in November.
Pakistan’s population has formally hit 207.77 million. This is the result of the 2017 census data by the PBS. The data has been composed after nearly two decades and it has not been without controversy. The composite annual growth rate for the population since 1998 turns out to be 2.4%, well above the global average. Female population is 101.3 million or 48.76%. The share of population of Punjab and Sindh decreased while it increased for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. According to the Word Bank, Pakistan is the sixth most crowded country following China, India, USA, Indonesia and Brazil.
Another statistic that is close to the hearts and minds of Pakistanis is the unemployment rate. Officially, it is around 6% though there is ambiguity about it as public is not that convinced.
A report published in 2017 by the US State Department says that terror in Pakistan is on the decline. A publicly available data set says that fatalities from terror incidents were 1209 in 2017, down from 1803 in 2016.
Like previous years, the foreign policy of Pakistan had to face many challenges. President Trump’s confused policies and statements have created immense ambiguity. Pakistan’s policy for Kashmir has emerged once again in 2017 as Pakistan showed its commitment for the Kashmir cause.
The former chief of Pakistan Army, General Raheel Sharif was in the limelight after it was revealed that he would take over the command of joint force led by Saudi Arabia.
Apart from the political, financial and diplomatic fronts, the youth of Pakistan continued to make global headlines in corporate and academic circles.
The world as well as Pakistan has welcomed New Year recently with many hopes, passion and a resolution of heading towards a more successful and economically stable Pakistan. The trader community has recently revealed that they are hopeful as year 2018 would be a year of progress, prosperity, development with supremacy of law to be prevailed in every corner of the country. The longstanding issues seem to be resolving like that of load shading, terrorism and many more. CPEC would remain a pivotal factor for the economic horizons of Pakistan.
The acceleration in economic growth and the political compulsion to focus on voters in 2018 may augur well for the masses. Many unfortunate events have not weakened citizens’ romance with democracy in Pakistan. In 2018, the retail sector is expected to expand but the pace may be slower, as in an uncertain political situation consumers tend to be less enthusiastic.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Qamar Javed Bajwa also showed positive gestures for 2018. He said, “Challenges are convertible into opportunities. Part we have done, remaining we can, and shall do together. Nothing can defeat the spirit of Pakistan”.
The day is not far when Pakistan will be among the top five fast growing economies of the world in 2018 by persisting the current growth momentum. Pakistan needs positivity and self-belief to continue building on the growth impetus Pakistan achieved in last three years. First and foremost the responsibility for steering the nation on the path of stability and prosperity rests in a democratic milieu with the political leadership. Pakistan’s future security prospects will also depend on how our political and civil society leaders live up to the vision of its founding fathers.
Pakistan’s superior foreign reactions and policy objectives cannot be designed or defined in an intransigent manner, on the basis of a single speech by a foreign President or any statement by a body. A country’s foreign policy must always reflect the national aspirations of its people; its formulation must incorporate clearly defined goals and directions, for a significant period of time, that won’t be changed abruptly or occasionally. Only on the basis of these can national strategies be developed to achieve them. This cannot be done with a sword hanging over our heads, and without any vision for the future. It is vastly important, now more than ever, not to give into reactionary instincts only to ride a wave of domestic populism.
Pakistan’s is attaining a full membership status of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) beckons another challenge. Pakistan thinks that the economic affluence that would be brought along with the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an extension of the SCO, will out step or perhaps elude terrorism. If poverty and terrorism are assumed two distinct issues (and which actually are despite all perceived correlations), the SCO or the CPEC offers a solution for poverty and not for terrorism.
It is said that “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence”. Pakistan is all ready to hug the horizons of a positive change which can lead the country to elevations.