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Pakistan’s (mis)leading economic indicator

The upward movement of the stock market, such as the KSE-100, usually leads to optimism among businesses, statisticians and policymakers.

They celebrate these figures as the sign of a national economic revival and widespread prosperity. This outlook is enthusiastically promoted, signalling a new era of growth and wealth that is purportedly set to benefit the entire economy.

However, this narrative often misses the stark reality faced by the broader population, particularly those struggling with poverty and lacking access to basic human rights.

The gains reflected in stock market numbers do not inherently result in direct benefits for these vulnerable groups. Despite the celebratory declarations from economic circles, actual improvements in living conditions and economic opportunities for the majority are typically minimal. This disconnect highlights a major bias in the rhetoric used by some economic leaders and policymakers.

Individuals who most vocally promote the narrative of economic prosperity – driven by bullish market trends – are mostly those who benefit the most from such economic conditions.

This group often includes wealthy business owners, investors, and high-level economic analysts. While they herald an economic turnaround, their perspectives and gains are not reflective of the broader societal experience. This situation points to a significant disparity in who benefits from economic growth, with the wealthy seeing substantial gains while the impoverished continue to struggle.

The insistence on proclaiming economic success based on stock market performance, therefore, can be seen as not only misleading but profoundly selfish. Such declarations often ignore the harsh realities faced by millions who do not partake in the fruit of this growth.

The individuals promoting this narrative may not fully acknowledge or empathize with the daily challenges, pain, and misery experienced by the less fortunate. This lack of sensitivity and awareness is more than just an oversight, it is a degrading and inhumane attitude that fails to recognize the equal rights and needs of all citizens.

While the stock market may be thriving, the true measure of a nation’s economic health should encompass the wellbeing of its entire population, not just the affluent. Real economic success must be inclusive, significantly enhancing the lives of all citizens, especially the marginalized.

A critical issue remains whether successive Pakistani governments have adequately gathered data on vulnerable groups – children, women, the elderly, the unemployed, and the uneducated, and those lacking basic amenities like electricity and clean water. This data is crucial for creating effective policies, particularly in rural and impoverished urban areas.

Seventy-six years post-Independence, it is essential to evaluate whether Pakistan has fulfilled its foundational promise of dignity, honour, and independence for all, despite global technological and informational advancements. The reality is that the benefits of these global developments have only slightly reached Pakistan’s disadvantaged communities.

The official narrative claims significant national progress and self-sufficiency, contrasting sharply with the minimal improvements in the daily lives of the absolute majority of citizens. This disparity calls into question the effectiveness and sincerity of government policies, highlighting a gap in governance and the need for a strategic reassessment to align with Pakistan’s original principles of equity and justice.

It is, therefore, not just a matter of shame but a clarion call for a critical evaluation of the leadership and governance that have consistently failed to transform the foundational promises of dignity, honour, and independence into a tangible reality for all of Pakistan’s citizens. The path forward requires a genuine commitment to rectifying these disparities and ensuring that the benefits of global advancements are equitably shared among all Pakistanis, fostering a truly dignified and independent life for every individual.

The immediate minimum actions required by legislatures, governments, and all those in positions of authority to effect meaningful change include the following strategic initiatives:

Comprehensive digitalization of the judicial system: there is a pressing need to digitize and digitalize the judicial system, extending from the lowest courts to the apex court. This process should be comprehensive and not implemented in a piecemeal manner.

Similarly, all government offices, from the highest levels down to those located in villages or slum areas, must undergo a complete digital transformation. This will enhance accessibility, efficiency, and transparency in public services.

Universal access to electricity: every household should have access to electricity, preferably through sustainable means such as solar energy. To facilitate this, the government should provide interest-free, long-term loans via digital vouchers. It is also critical to ensure the availability of high-standard, authenticated solar panels in the market, accompanied by a robust oversight mechanism to maintain quality and reliability.

Broadband internet access: the government should guarantee that every household has access to at least 4G internet connectivity. This can be achieved through public-private partnerships, leveraging both governmental oversight and private sector innovation and efficiency.

Proactive transparency: it is essential to immediately enforce Sections 5 and 6 of the federal and provincial information acts. Additionally, the establishment of information commissions at the headquarters of each province and in every district, ensuring their effective functionality, will promote transparency and accountability. This approach will also enhance efficiency and reduce the pervasive corruption in government processes and offices.

Universal education and high-tech skill development through advanced technologies: every child and adult should be guaranteed access to free and compulsory education, as well as opportunities for high-tech skill development.

This initiative aims to enable individuals to fully realize their potential, thereby enhancing their and their families’ lives. It also facilitates their capacity to contribute both directly and indirectly to the inclusive growth and prosperity of the country.

By leveraging generative artificial intelligence and other state-of-the-art technologies, education opportunities can be made available round the clock, 24/7. This allows for learning to occur anytime and anywhere, offering unparalleled flexibility in how education is accessed and experienced.

This approach ensures that learning is accessible to everyone, regardless of their geographical location or socio-economic background. Such technologies not only democratize education but also adapt to the needs of diverse learners, making it a powerful tool for widespread educational and economic advancement.

Dr Murtaza Khuhro, "Pakistan’s (mis)leading economic indicator," The News. 2024-04-30.
Keywords: Economics , Economic growth , Economic conditions , Transparency , Accountability , Pakistan , KSE