NATION CELEBRATES 64TH INDEPENDENCE DAY UNDER ECONOMIC, POLITICAL & SOCIAL PRESSURES

AMANULLAH BASHAR
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Aug 15 - 21, 2011

People celebrated the 64th day of independence under pressure due to sense of insecurity, disturbed law and order situation, and unstable socioeconomic and political conditions prevailing across the country.

People observed the happiest moment of the history under load shedding, indiscriminate firing, and endless fight between parties to protect party interest and not to serve the interest of the common person. Strikes, target killings, backbreaking price inflation, and depreciating rupee value altogether have made life difficult.

MISSION

President Asif Ali Zardari on the historic occasion said that the government has embarked on a mission to make the country strong, self-sufficient and prosperous state to ensure bright future for the young generation.

It is reassuring that President of the country is hopeful for a bright future of the country with a firm resolve that there is no reason for despondency as the government has been effectively facing the challenges and making progress in all the sectors.

The President promised to the nation in a firm tone that he would make Pakistan strong, self-supported, and self-reliance state. A strong Pakistan will not be a threat to any country.

The President said he was confident that with the measures taken by the government, the country would make progress and overcome the challenges of load shedding. There are challenges but the democratic government is fully determined to make the country a responsible, strong, and self-supported.

The parliament, democracy, people of the country and Pakistan Army together will face all the challenges and give due status and position to the country in the international community.

Attaching hope and confidence with the younger generation for the progress and prosperity of the country, the President said, "Youth is the real future of the country and they are the hope for the progress and prosperity of the country."

The President said Pakistan has traveled a long way and now it is the start of the new era of progress, development, and welfare of the people of the country.

The President especially mentioned the landmark decision of the present government to empower the people of FATA through providing them political rights and making amendments in the FCR which was given to them after one hundred years.

"Pakistan wants to engage with the international community. We are not looking for short cuts; rather we are making efforts to achieve the goals of progress and prosperity through a strong democratic system."

President said, "We need to work with patience and confidence to solve the problems faced by the people."

The 14th of August was a historic day when under the inspiring leadership of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Muslims of the subcontinent added a glorious chapter of sacrifice, commitment and selfless devotion to the annals of history.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said the creation of Pakistan was a culmination of the Muslimsí relentless political and constitutional struggle to preserve their cultural identity, heritage, civilization including the protection of their political and economic rights. Today, Pakistan has a functional democracy, independent judiciary, and a vocal parliament. Similarly, robust media, assertive civil society, and enlightened middle class are the manifestation of a vibrant Pakistan.

Prime Minister Gilani said the parliament approved historic constitutional amendments that have devolved the administrative and political power to the federating units.

The passage of the 18th, 19th Constitutional Amendments and consensual adoption of the 7th NFC Award were some of the historic milestones achieved by the present democratic government, which would surely strengthen federation, he added.

Prime Minister Gilani said Pakistan was a gift of God and it was the sacred duty of all to work hard for its progress and development to bring about a qualitative difference in the lives of people.

ECONOMIC ISSUES

However, despite tall claims made by the governments of the day, the fact remains that people are finding them in a mess whether it is a question of provincial harmony, political stability, stable law and order and economic opportunities.

At the moment, after peace and harmony, the most burning issue of the day is the deepening energy crisis making life of the common citizen's miserable both at home and economic fronts. The situation calls for a serious and concerted effort to steer out economy from endless crisis.

A few examples can give an idea about the adverse effects of the energy crisis on the national economy.

Pakistan Railways is a first choice of the people for traveling and transportation. This huge empire has come to the verge of closure primarily due to high cost of diesel threatening to the viability of this huge national organization confronted with huge losses of over Rs50 billion.

Pakistan International Airline (PIA) is another public sector organization, which is confronted with financial and management crisis due to unaffordable cost of aviation fuel.

Pakistan Steel, which could be the pride of the nation, has fallen into the trap of poor governance and become a victim of poor management. This prestigious organization instead of providing support in building up the economy has become a liability, adding burden to the poor nation.

The rising cost of oil has increased the trade deficit as the import bill is bulging mainly because of oil imports estimated to cross $16 billion at the end of the current financial year.

The export industry is continuously raising hue and cry over power failures, rising gas, diesel and petrol prices with the plea that the costly input is crowding them out of the world export market.

These are some broad examples of the overall economic scenario otherwise the impact of energy crisis is widespread right from a small unit to large scale manufacturing industry. The inflated electricity bills mostly calculated on average have adversely affected the kitchen budget of the domestic consumers.

All these examples mentioned above call for an urgent energy plan to address the energy issue which is the root cause for all socioeconomic ills on the back of rising inflation, price inflation and food inflation as well as depreciating exchange rate which altogether are hitting the GDP growth rate which is said to be the lowest in the region.

The mounting inflation is a good reason for the financial regulators to keep tightening monetary policy. The policy discount rate of the central bank currently is at 13.5 percent but when it comes into business of the commercial banks the rate of interest goes up to the level of 18-20 percent for the private sector.

As a result of high interest rate the banks are also facing defaults as according to a leading banker the number of non-performing loans has gone up to the level of Rs50 billion, an alarming situation of course.

SBP

Muhammad Kamran Shehzad, Deputy Governor State Bank of Pakistan has however assured that SBP is fully committed to continue its relentless efforts for the development of country's financial sector.

The achievements of the State bank are evident from the fact that now Pakistan is considered among those countries which have a robust financial system. He said the SBP has been making relentless efforts with sincerity, dedication, and honesty for the development of country's financial sector.

Congratulating the nation on the Independence Day, Deputy Governor SBP said that 14th August is the most significant day in the history of Pakistan as it reminds us how this great country came into being after a long and strenuous struggle of our forefathers.

Mr. Kamran said that this day also reminds us of our national heroes whose untiring efforts, dedication and countless sacrifices gifted us an independent state. 'We must be thankful to Almighty Allah, Who bestowed upon us the dynamic leadership of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah,' he added.

'I am confident that if we rigorously follow our Quaid's golden principles of Unity, Faith and Discipline, then no power in the world can stop us from achieving all objectives of the independence of Pakistan for which our forefathers rendered great sacrifices,' he stressed.

He said that on August 14, 1947 when we as an independent nation began our journey, we faced a number of challenges to achieve progress and prosperity for our nation and it looked like that we would need centuries to overcome these challenges. But, with the blessing of Almighty Allah and determination of our great nation, we ably succeeded in overcoming these initial difficulties, he observed.

He pointed out that the State Bank of Pakistan has achieved tremendous progress since its inception in 1948. Pakistan's central bank now has a banking system that is capable to achieve financial stability in accordance with the Quaid's vision, he said.

Mr. Kamran urged all employees of the central bank to show greater commitment to transform the State bank into a more dynamic and modern institution in line with contemporary banking practices being exercised in the developed economies.

"We must renew our determination that we will continue to make unrelenting efforts to achieve the goals for which the country's central bank was established. Let's resolve that we will continue to work with utmost sincerity, devotion, honesty and professionalism at the central bank.

CONCLUSION

One of the immediate solutions for energy crisis is to ensure availability of fuel at an affordable price. In the short term, the best solution is to import natural gas, which would be cheaper than the locally produced natural gas.

In this respect, the government has assigned to National Engineering Services, Pakistan (NESPAK) for preparing the feasibility report of the 7.5 billion dollar Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline Project.

The feasibility report will be completed in 14 months after which work on second phase of the project will begin with actual construction of the pipeline, scheduled to be completed by December 2014. It may be mentioned that that the actual cost of the project was estimated at $2.5 billion a decade ago.

However, with the delay of the project due to external pressure against Iran gas pipeline the cost of the project escalated to the present level of $7.5 billion. The price could further escalate to such an extent that the decision makers could drop the idea of importing gas through pipeline.