According to the definition, a welfare state is a concept of government in which the state or a well-established network of social institutions plays a key role in protecting and promoting the economic and social well-being of citizens. And according to Mariam Webster; the national interest of a nation as a whole considered as an independent entity distinct from the interests of subordinate regions or groups and also of other nations or supranational groups.
Examples include territorial integrity, national independence, state sovereignty and the ability to pursue economic development. National interests are pursued by a state over a long period of time and include interests like ecological balance, military strength, economy, and industrial modernization.
“The meaning of the national interest is survival – the protection of physical, political and cultural identity from the encroachments of other nation states.” — Morgentheau.
Pakistan is a democratic country according to its constitution. Political parties are the pillars of democracy – popular leaders are elected leaders. Leaders are elected to serve the people – those who want to be elected must serve better – parties reflect the fundamental political divisions of a society. Indeed, a political party brings together people who share the same political ideas. By taking part in an election, parties hope to unite as many of their members as possible and obtain the legitimacy to govern for a given period. During the same period, the opposition party acts as a *check and balance* on the ruling elite to ensure they are working for the public good. This means that the opposition is, in practice, part of the system and has responsibilities.
A state cannot be stable until its economy is stable. Therefore, the economy and economic policies must be a “constant factor”, like the defense of the country, for all the political parties of our country. A sustainable economy needs long-term policies, not only in the conceptual realm but more so in the practical realm.
It is therefore in the interest of all political parties to “politicize” economic policies from now on. Whoever gets to lead the government after every election should inherit a healthy economy. The public interest must be given priority. A public program launched by a government often becomes controversial for the next government if it comes from another party. Long-term projects particularly suffer for one reason or another, mainly due to political party interests versus public interests. The construction of dams, hospitals, stadiums, communication infrastructures, etc. are a few examples to be mentioned. A race to inaugurate and take credit for a project is always counterproductive and damaging, like what happened at WAPDA a few years ago. Efforts should be recognized and praised, regardless of the recipient. An example is the creation of Rescue 1122.
A simple way to define the economy is how people spend money and how they make money. An economy can be large or small. The word can refer to a local economy, like how people spend and earn money in a small town or a big city. It is primarily the role of the government of the day (including the opposition, as noted in the paragraphs above), to provide a reasonable (if not good) standard of living for the public.
Factors that determine a standard of living include:
– Physical health
– Quality of the environment
– Availability of accommodation
– Life expectancy
– Personal security
– Access to education
– Medical institutions
– Social services
Factors that can contribute to a low standard of living include:
– Lack of adequate industry in a particular field,
– Lack of jobs,
– Insufficient health services,
– Lack of public transport,
– Lack of food or water,
– Government oppression,
– and much more
Having a low standard of living limits a person’s ability to participate in society at large, reduces their quality of life, and can have long-term negative consequences on a wide range of social and economic outcomes. It also has negative effects on the behavior, conduct and discipline of human beings. It contributes to negativity, anarchy, depression and even violence.
Pakistan is endowed with enormous human and material resources. He is used to repeatedly facing international payment crises amid depleted foreign exchange reserves. However, the positive side is that he has never missed a payment throughout his history. Our exports have been very low compared to imports, which puts enormous pressure on our reserves. However, remittances from expatriates have played a crucial role, alongside inflows through various programs.
Recently, the inflow of foreign currency to the Roshan Digital Accounts (RDA) account of Overseas Pakistanis has continued to increase. These exceeded $4 billion in April 2022, despite global political and economic instabilities, especially in Pakistan. The inflows are a huge support in stabilizing the country’s foreign exchange reserves. Without this, our foreign exchange reserves would have reached a critical level. Inflows through the RDAs add to the huge monthly worker remittances by overseas Pakistanis. This helped finance high trade and current account deficits. They sent a record $2.81 billion in worker remittances in a single month of April 2022. The estimated amount is around $30-31 billion for the current fiscal year 2021-22 .
Pakistan has yet to take full advantage of the Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP+) status which ends in December 2023. The purpose of this status was “trade diversification”, but we are still heavily dependent on textiles only. Other sectors such as agriculture, fruit, especially citrus fruits (like kinnnow), leather, halal meat, jewelery and horticulture, although they meet EU requirements, n have not been able to conquer the EU markets. Our line ministries as well as foreign missions have not done well on this front. Exports to the EU, dominated by textiles and clothing, accounted for 75.2% of Pakistan’s total exports to the EU in 2020. Needless to say, for sustainable growth, our country needs to diversify its exports. Sectors like IT have enormous potential that the government must explore.
The current government is a coalition of a number of parties, fearing the backlash of unpopular (but much-needed) economic decisions, including some that must be maintained by the former government on merit. Unfortunately, there is no luxury of time. Foreign exchange reserves are declining. There is no respite for global commodity prices, with the exception of oil which is down 5% due to covid in China, which is the biggest user. Timely action is needed. Pakistan’s traditional supporters have made it clear that there will be no support without IMF involvement. The World Bank and AfDB are still awaiting the green light from the IMF for the low foreign exchange reserves of the SBP. Even the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is not ready to help without the IMF.
After the next elections, all parties running for the legislature should sit down to decide sustainable economic policies for the country with a professional team and without making politics about it. This would not only bring prosperity, but would also enhance respect for all politicians in the eyes of the general public, which has been deteriorating at a very rapid rate over the past four decades or so.
The author is a freelance columnist.
Pakistan has yet to take full advantage of the Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP+) status.