ECONOMIC PACKAGE BY NEW PM

The new package likely to be employment-oriented

From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI,
Islamabad

Aug 30 - Sep 05, 2004

The Prime Minister designate Shaukat Aziz who is going to take oath of his office on August 27, 2004, has assured the nation that a comprehensive development package will be announced in a couple of weeks to accelerate the economic activity and improve the standard of living of the common man. In an interview to the official news agency, after taking oath as member of the National Assembly he said that the package will include not only the measures to effectively tackle poverty and unemployment but would also include a programme to reform and improve the police and legal systems in the country.

He reiterated government commitment to control inflation, better education and health facilities social sector and infrastructure and would ensure that the benefit of economic revival reached the common man. He pledged to serve the country and the nation with renewed commitment and vigor to make Pakistan a dynamic, vibrant, economically strong and progressive Islamic welfare state.

These are noble and commendable intentions and re-affirm the great hopes the people of Pakistan has pinned in Shaukat Aziz in view of his 5 years performance as Finance Minister of the country. Coming as they do from a person who has very ably navigated the ship of our economy and brought it on to its present healthy course in his tenure as Finance Minister, the promise to articulate policies geared towards bringing about meaningful changes in the quality of life of the people do not seem to be a mere rhetoric. People expect that the package to be announced by Shaukat Aziz, with all his knowledge and real economic foresight, will focus on common man, who have so far not benefited from improved economic indicators, and their expectations for new employment opportunities, poverty alleviation and control of inflation specially the prices of kitchen items would be met through effective implementation of his package.

The new occupant of the Prime Minister House is different from all the 19 Prime Ministers we had since 1947. He is neither or politician nor a feudal. However, he is well known and well respected internationally as a successful banker. Even his worst critics have to admit that he has performed extremely well as Finance Minister during the last five years. Never in such a short time economic indicators have improve so dramatically. Exports are constantly on the increase. The rate of interest in all time low and revenue generation is all time high. The debt burden has declined significantly and the foreign exchange reserves are all time high. Stock markets are booming and foreign investment has picked up significantly, the fiscal deficit is on the decline and economy is better documented then ever before. When he took over as the Finance Minister about 5 years back, the country's economy was in shambles. Undaunted by difficulties he took, the big challenge to turn it around. And he went about doing his job with patience and hard work. The results that have been possible in the last 4 years could not have foreseen at that time.

But it is also a fact that although the country's economy has been showing more than satisfactory growth performance, the concern of the people about problems of unemployment, rising poverty level and high inflation of basic incentives of life, after rise in cooking oil and meet have remained unadressed. In view of the socio-economic pressures on the common man as a result of high cost of living, mounting health and education cost and ever rising utilities' charges, the people want tangible steps for mitigation of their sufferings as expeditiously as possible. It's therefore, important that the comprehensive package pledged by Mr. Shaukat Aziz should address the public grievances on account of poverty, unemployment and high cost of living. The fact is that the major cause of internal dissensions and commotion in the country is the lack of opportunities for the people especially the educated youth. Empty mind is devil's workshop. It is, therefore, necessary that urgent steps should be taken to bring the country's youth back to the constructive and positive pursuits and prevent them from falling into the trap of terrorists and extremists by providing them hope in their future. One would, therefore, urge Mr. Shaukat Aziz that the new package should be employment-oriented. The middle and lower middle classes of society have already suffered a great deal as a result of the successive governments' lack of interest in their welfare. It's obvious time to correct the past mistakes and address socio-economic problems of the common man also, lest the yawning gap between haves and have-nots might become unbridgeable. Shaukat Aziz's tenure as Prime Minister is being perceived as an era of progress and development. It is hoped that he will come up to public expectations.