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Pursuant to the results of a Google search, based on projections by IMF outlook April 2017, ignoring the mischief-makers who always scream “Lies” on hearing anything sounding like IMF, gross world product in 2017 is projected US$ 77.9 trillion, while GDP (PPP) is forecasted at US$ 126.69 trillion. Compared to that, according to IIF, and there are no rabble-rousers to ignore in this case since most likely no one knows who IIF is, global debt levels have surged to US$ 217 in 2017, including household, government and corporate debt. Government debt is this pile, according to IMF, is estimated at US$ 63 trillion.

The first thing that came to my mind, at least, was, who does the world owe all this debt too? And how did the world even create so many dollars in the first place? Every time the gurus tell me that all this debt is owed be nations to their citizens, it makes me buckle up with laughter, I would rather go with the Martian theory; on the other hand, what makes me cry, is the ease with bankers can create money, and continue to do so. By the way, the debt estimates, as far as I could make out did not include weapons of mass destruction, derivatives! Wonder what comes after a trillion?!

The above interesting facts were to bring perspective; in a world that survives, in fact is intoxicated, on debt, perhaps our government was justified in claiming borrowing of more foreign debt as a huge achievement. Except more debt seemingly is not a permanent solution to the biggest problem facing Pakistan, creating jobs. Sure you can temporarily create jobs with construction activities financed through debt, however long term, this strategy is self destructive; the jobs and debt both aren’t sustainable.

The government is fairly right that most of the jobs in a country come from the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector, except that all the government schemes, incentives and plans over the years, have accomplished naught when it comes to the SME sector. One can understand that is you have always used a hammer, every problem resembles a nail, but perhaps access to finance, ability to get more debt, is not what ails the SME sector; the government needs to think more.

On the other hand, what perhaps the government does not realize is that, the SME sector mostly clusters around cities, and that cities create jobs; if it did our big cities would not be drowning in garbage today, and the government would be focusing policy on damming the deluge of immigrants further burdening cities which are bursting at the seam. Focus on agriculture, creating jobs in the rural area, perhaps land reforms, can stop the latter time bomb; however creating an environment conducive for job creation in the cities goes way beyond rhetoric over spending on health and education and building roads.

Don’t get me wrong, clean cities, world class education and efficient healthcare are conditions precedent for flourishing cities, but they are in their own right not sufficient for continuing creation of sustainable jobs and economic growth; notice I say sustainable jobs, not temporary labour works. The government, on a lighter note, will have to do more!

A couple of decades ago, I could probably count a bunch of Pakistani cities amongst thriving, and growing, economic centres; today, while there might be a few bursts of excellence here and there, from time to time, I would probably not go beyond 4, and that too with hesitation. I would have serious reservations over Karachi as a growing economic hub, simply because of its horrible management of cleanliness and provision of clean drinking water to its citizens. Frankly, I haven’t really travelled to the other three cities on my list in recent times, so maybe these problems, cleanliness and clean water, aren’t endemic.

To conclude, at the macro level, the country level, Pakistan has to export, and control imports, no two ways about it; on the micro level, it has to create jobs in all its cities. I accept that transforming cities into job making machines is easier said than done; there aren’t any simple one size fit all solutions that I am aware off. So how do you do that? Mix and match of economic thought, including radical economic policy steps, such as protectionism if need be.

As a very first step, in my humble opinion, making job creation the KPI for any public sector office, especially for elected positions, is critical. For all politicians, starting from the grass root, to the very top, performance should not be measureable by kilometres of roads built, schools and hospitals set up and whatever else that forms part of their electoral speeches; the single criteria should be the number of sustainable jobs created in their constituency during their tenure, duly verified by an independent international agency.

So next time, the question to ask on these electronic media talk shows should be- so how many jobs did you create this month?

Syed Bakhtiyar Kazmi, "Jobs," Business Recorder. 2012-12-27.
Keywords: Economics , Social values , Economic growth , Circular debt , Jobs opportunities , Pakistan , IMF , GDP , KPI

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