The growth of gross domestic product (GDP) would be 3.94%, announces the National Accounts Committee. No, it will not be since the State Bank was not in unison, object some experts and media men.
Hey listen, we were on the same page, comes the reply from the State Bank. But it still cannot be, voices are raised. Why? Because the IMF did not give this figure and the World Bank’s projection was also different.
In recent days, the GDP growth figure has become the focus of almost all budget debates. Even the international media are attacking Pakistani ministers on this issue. Was there a promise of relief to the common man in the budget, no one remembers. If one hopes for a lower cost of living, nobody cares. Will there be relief for the salaried class and retirees, whatever.
The only and main concern is to achieve the stipulated GDP growth rate. Once this was reached, everything would fall into place, they are convinced.
Incidentally, the budget month in Pakistan is the hottest of the year, but it gives chills to millions of people across the country. As those gray-haired “doctors” who have traveled to Islamabad in comfortable business classes and had a good rest in five-star hotels, gather in a comfortable conference room with their eyes focused on the digital screen popping up from the graphics and changing tables, and begin to haggle over fractional numbers, just then, somewhere, a worker with a huge pile of bricks on his head climbs the shabby rungs of a wooden ladder about 30 feet tall. high up to a third story lintel with the sun scorching above his head and nearby a cattle grazer stumbles through rugged, thorny terrain with scorching earth beneath his bare feet. These two poor fellows, along with hundreds of thousands like them, busy thinking about their not-so-lucky children in school and sick parents deprived of medical care, are utterly forgotten for the intrepid efforts of these people. brilliant spirits in this cozy room to fix the fractions in place, and these brilliant spirits are also oblivious to the plight of these workers, ranchers and millions like them.
Every year in the same season, the ubiquitous rhetoric of the “people’s budget” begins to buzz everywhere through speeches, seminars and media conferences. Ministers and advisers are starting to share good omens and hopes with people in simple words, but as budget days approach, the debates suddenly become too technical, incomprehensible to the ordinary mind. A dozen economic indicators such as the current account deficit, the key rate, inflation, the debt / GDP ratio, foreign exchange reserves, FDI, remittances, etc. occupy a central place in the debates.
Poor data comparisons
Various theories and opinions are creeping into print and electronic media, as well as social media these days. There are comparative figures, yes comparison of various national economic and social indicators with other countries.
These comparisons are very interesting and precarious. Those who intend to undermine the government would choose such indicators, countries and periods, where Pakistan’s performance can look dismal. Those who want to be friends make their own choices, thanks to the freedom of choice. What readers fail to understand is the lack of internal cohesion and relevance of such comparisons – and if our literacy rate was lower than that of a certain South Asian country this year and if our mailings funds were higher than a certain Latin American country that year!
Read more: OECD sees higher global GDP growth
What has another country’s rapid advancements in computing have to do with our poor one-year rice crop! But why object, analyzes are analyzes, experts are experts. One way or another, all discussions invariably boil down to estimates of GDP growth, for the past year and years to come. Different estimated figures are presented by different quarters. All different digits are usually with the variance of decimals and fractions. Each figure is vehemently supported or fought by the partisans with daggers drawn as the phrase goes.
An air is created in such a way that if this or that level of GDP growth is reached, there would be prosperity, calm, happiness and peace everywhere and disastrous shortages.
It is true that the macroeconomic picture with all the economic variables and their sensitivities must be constantly in the sight of policymakers, however, all this plethora and maze of variables and their links may not be of use to the general public.
The economy of the common man is peculiar and limited to his daily socio-economic needs.
Poor pedestrians, clothed in dust left behind by billionaire’s speedy SUVs, don’t want to know the Gini coefficient movement, an unemployed graduate unable to buy basic necessities might not want to see the shape of Phillips Curve, and parents forced to send their young children to bungalows and auto workshops are certainly not interested in the complex legal language of international child labor conventions. Steps and only steps are needed to remedy these people’s problems – not words, speeches, lectures or incomprehensible analyzes and comparisons.
Measures in favor of the population
Credit cannot be taken from the current government for taking pro-people action in a timely manner. One should not be shy and stingy in accepting the government’s calculated and focused efforts to deal with the ravages of Covid-19 that have left even many developed economies to collapse under its pressure.
Pakistan’s efforts to keep the cogs of the economy running on one side and to minimize the spread of the pandemic on the other are acclaimed and admired around the world. Besides supporting families during closures, the ongoing Ehsaas program and “Koi Bhooka na Soye” are initiatives that promise relief to the deserving poor.
Another laudable initiative is the recently launched “Kamyab Jawan – Youth Entrepreneur Scheme”. Microfinance and small loan programs have been recognized as very effective interventions around the world. Such programs carry little risk of default and produce long-term fruits by reducing poverty and unemployment. Adequate governance, concerted oversight, and ruthless accountability, however, are necessary for such initiatives to become enduring characteristics of a welfare state.
We can humbly say that no post-budget seminar, conference, media interview, briefing and specific debriefing is convened in order to analyze the effectiveness of the budget.
There is a simple test. After, say a quarter, the budget announcement and new measures put in place, go to the general public – the people – and ask them how they feel. If they say they were better off than in previous years, the budget was great, the policies were right, and the vision was clear.
If they say otherwise, please get a short leave from these GDP improvement gurus and take action for people. If each year goes by without changing the aggregates of the common man, why count the decimals.
Writer retired as Joint Economic Advisor to Government of Pakistan, works as development consultant, writer and analyst
Posted in The Express Tribune, June 7e, 2021.