Regionalization, Globalization and Pakistan
Compulsions and Concerns
By SOFIA SABEEN
Sep 17 - 23, 2001
The current argument over the end of nation state
and the rise of regional economic blocs has triggered a debate over
the very existence of nation state. A renowned Japanese strategist,
Kenichi Ohmae has done a good job in initiating this provocative
debate. Applying his analysis to Pakistan will not be too wishful as
Pakistan is also among the nation states, which are rapidly changing
their economic policies according to the global requirements. But for
many this "end of nation state paradigm" would not be
appealing as it negates the traditional dominance of government over
the capital, corporations, consumers and communications in a
particular state. Let's just apply the part of his thesis, which only
recognizes the rise of regional engines of economy surpassing the
legitimate boundaries of a state, and its implications on Pakistan.
Even a very novice learner of our country
understands the diversity of Pakistani society in all regards. Keeping
the various cultural, linguistic and religious differences in
consideration, we have to see how our decision makers can accommodate
the wider interests of a globalized economy. Acknowledging very minor
issues of a "province" is one thing and broadening the
horizons of national economy to reach out for regional benefits is
another. Especially if one doesn't see a very promising position of
economic well being of populace domestically. Nevertheless our
premises of discussion are still realistic as we try to find the scope
of Pakistan becoming a part of a regional economy and consequently a
catalyst for global economy.
The significance of SAARC to Pakistan is like the
relevance of an outmoded manufacturing plant to an industrialist. We
as a member of this regional organization could not reap the fruits of
economic success due to political conflicts among the members. India
and Pakistan being the two significant members could have made a lot
of improvement to the fate of South Asia had there been any bold
attempt on the part of the two countries. With this scenario any hope
of economic well being of the people of South Asia comes to an end.
However within this dismal setting there emerges a genuine need to
widen the parameters of South Asian economy. This, in reality is not
to follow the "trends" but to recognize the very necessities
of the people of this potential yet ill-fated region. Reviewing the
contemporary strives of different states to accommodate the larger
interests of regional prosperity; we must identify the need of
enhancing regional cooperation. The EU and ASEAN are the models of
such cohesion of geographical units for economic cooperation despite a
number of political strains between the states.
What are Pakistan's considerations in this age of
globalization for the economic development of the people? Are we ready
to accommodate the impending issues concerning the regional
development? Are we up to the challenge of placing our political
tensions behind our economic concerns? How do we perceive the spread
of information technology and its impact on our society? Is this
information age threatening our social order? These questions are not
mere questions. We have to take them objectively and squarely.
Seeing our performance in retrospect, we can
observe few successes and countless failures. SAARC suffered
predominantly due to apathy prevailing in both Pakistani and Indian
mindset vis-a-vis regional cooperation. There is a long list of issues
demanding immediate attention of the decision makers so as to
eliminate poverty, cope with unemployment, reduce inflation rate,
improve balance of payment and, eventually unfetter the nations from
foreign debt. The question is not of demeaning national sovereignty in
the name of economic betterment, the focus is to recognize the
international pressures on the region both politically and
economically in order to maintain its own distinct identity. In fact
it is the sovereign status of the region that is at stake rather than
the individual nations. The efforts to undermine its independent
identity in the name of protection of environment, human rights,
intellectual property rights etc should not be taken lightheartedly.
This region possesses immense prospects in terms of economic
collaboration if acknowledged promptly. The South Asians need not to
search for any other platform to present or represent their
aspirations of augmenting regional resources in the presence of SAARC.
There is a dire need to take some drastic steps to liberalize the
national economies and remove all the hurdles in the way of economic
growth of the region within the framework of SAARC. In this regard, we
already have SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA), which has
to be used effectively. Furthermore, the intention of building a South
Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) is also in offing.
We have tested one other regional forum for
economic cooperation i.e. ECO which did not prove to be a very
beneficial collaboration of the member states. Even after inclusion of
Central Asian states in ECO we could not achieve the anticipated
results. Needless is to reiterate the importance of strengthening
durable economic ties with the South Asian members. With this line of
action successfully undertaken, our broader goal of reaping the fruits
of economic progress, within South Asia would be accomplished.
Focusing on Pakistan, our decision makers must now
broaden their vision and should act boldly upon avoiding political
confrontations, which, over a period of time have harmed our economic
interests to an alarming extent. True, that national interests cannot
be sacrificed for "mere economic prosperity" but this very
"trifling" matter is driving the nations all over the globe
to join their hands for socio-economic development of their regions.
Besides, what is the true explanation of national interests? Most
certainly our national interests have to be kept intact and there
should be no compromise over the important policy principles, but
there is a big difference between sacrificing the national interests
and relaxing the strained circumstances. Today, we are bound to
succumb to international pressures monetarily due to our poor economic
performance and absence of a regional market. What is more irritating
than this fact is that national interests are in opposition to
people's interests? Our people are truly aggravated due to dreadful
economic condition of the country. With an inflation rate of 7.8% and
34% of population living below poverty line, the economic scene is
grimmer than ever in spite of the constant assurances of good
governance by the present government.
The challenges abound. Not only the economic scene
is demanding, the greater test at present is of social alienation
threatening the fiber of the society. We can see a different class
emerging within the rich-poor gap in our society. These are the people
who are well informed, knowledgeable and acquainted with the newest of
the ideas. Therefore, apart from economic disparities existing in our
society, there exists another pattern of disproportion between the
information-rich and information-poor. Thus, now the clash is not only
between haves and have-nots. People are nowadays tremendously driven
by the much up-to-the-minute information technology. Our society is
fairly vulnerable in the manifest flow of information technology
throughout the world. We cannot bound our people's mind or limit their
likes and dislikes in today's high-tech world. The social glue is
already losing its effectiveness breaching definite nature of old
norms and unquestioned supremacy of certain traditions. The
information technology has particularly influenced the youth. Today's
youth is quite ambitious and focused. The sad fact is that his
energies are not properly channelized due to the economic reasons.
Subsequently, a process of brain-drain occurs and the country loses
its precious human resource .
Our ruling elites must realize the urgency of
having a greater framework for socio-economic development of the
nation. This is not merely a suggestion; in fact it substantiates the
need to salvage our crumbling social structure. The economic well
being of common men is the determining factor for our development.
This is an era of adherence to geo-economics rather than geo-politics.
Ignoring political confrontations for pursuing economic strength will
certainly be a healthy initiative on the part of our decision makers.
Then, one can expect, there would not be any marked difference between
"national interests" and "people's interests".