August 01, 2011

Can Pakistan survive without foreign aid?

Sundus Nazir Qureshi

Pakistan can live without foreign aid, but it has to make some tough choices. Currently, its economy is in a bad shape because of mismanagement, corruption and war against terror. According to estimates, Pakistan economy has suffered direct and indirect losses of up to $67.93bn because of its role in the war against terror. In recent times Pakistan’s foreign debt has crossed $58bn mark. Our economy is heavily dependent on aid from World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Japan, China and the United States. Now this is time to realize that Pakistan has the potential and means for its development and growth. Pakistan is a blessed country; it has skilled manpower/young people, abundance of natural resources and an effective Diaspora abroad. But what we lack is a visionary leadership.

As of today 70% of Pakistani population is below the age of 35. This is a blessing that we are the youngest nation on planet earth. We have to utilize this asset. Our youth is optimistic as far as the future of Pakistan is concerned. They are hopeful that the night of misery and dismay will soon be over and they will be able to see a bright and shining Pakistan. This youth needs a leader who can lead them and show them a way out of this impasse. Our leaders must benefit from this young population and formulate a long-term far-sighted policy to make the most of this young force, only then can we ensure a bright future for our coming generations. Pakistan is among the few countries in the world that are blessed with immense natural resources. It possesses wide-ranging energy resources, including the natural gas, oil reserves, coal fields and large hydropower potential.

Pakistan is sitting on huge coal reserves. According to different estimates, it has 175 billion tons of coal, which is equivalent to 618 billion barrels of crude oil, which is more than Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Qatar’s oil reserves. The estimated value of Thar coal is $25 trillion. These resources can change the destiny of Pakistan in next few years. What we need is proper utilization of these resources. Our energy problem will be solved forever.

Pakistan also has immense reserves of oil and gas in Balochistan, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other parts of Pakistan. A few years back in Karak District huge reserves of oil and gas were discovered by the foreign companies. Pakistan has to develop expertise in the exploration of natural resources because there are huge reserves lying in the mountains of KPK and the deserts of Sindh and Balochistan that are yet to be discovered. Pakistan is also blessed with a fertile land with the world’s best irrigation system in place. It produces best quality of cotton and rice. Almost 30% Pakistan’s land area is under cultivation and is watered by one of the largest irrigation systems in the world. The most important crops are cotton, wheat, rice, sugarcane, maize, sorghum, millets, pulses, oil seeds, barley, fruits and vegetables, which together account for more than 75% of the value of total crop output. Due to vast coastline of about 900 km Pakistan has enough fisheries that remain to be fully developed. Fishery and fishing industry can play a vital role in the development of Pakistan’s economy. This industry has the potential to catch foreign markets but what it needs is a helping hand from the government to improve their techniques and meet the foreign standards.

Pakistan is also blessed with vast areas of forests. Pakistan’s 4% of land is covered with forests, these forests can be a major source of food, lumber, paper, fuel wood, latex, medicine etc. There is no dearth of natural resources in Pakistan, what it needs is proper management and sincere leadership. With proper utilization of these resources Pakistan can become a viable and prosperous nation in next few years. Pakistan is also rich in other minerals like Gold and Copper. In Balochistan Reko Diq area, almost $270 billion USD of proven and $3 trillion USD estimated gold and copper reserves are lying. Foreign companies are striving hard to get the contracts of exploration and mining in this area.

Another important asset of Pakistan is its population living abroad. The remittances of Pakistanis living in foreign countries have played an important role in saving an already fragile economy and also bolstered foreign exchange reserves of Pakistan. Pakistanis living in Middle East, Europe and America have sent billions of dollars in last few decades. According to State Bank of Pakistan, seven million Pakistanis contributed almost $11.2 billion to the Pakistani economy in FY 2011. Pakistan is not at all a poor country; it has enough natural resources, skilled manpower and strength of character to develop and grow. Pakistan has been mismanaged from the very day of its inception. It needs an honest, sincere, credible, charismatic and visionary leadership. Pakistan has to change its mindset and must have peace with India and other neighbors. Its peaceful relations with India would help it to focus on its economy than defense. India is an emerging economy; peace with India will open its markets for Pakistani products.

Pakistan’s volatile internal security situation has discouraged foreign investment. The government must ensure peace in tribal areas as soon as possible. Karachi is its financial hub of Pakistan but target killing, clashes between armed groups backed by political parties and land mafia has jeopardized peace in Karachi. It is imperative for the government and security forces to establish peace in Karachi, because breakdown of Karachi means the collapse of Pakistan economy. After the induction of nukes in the Pakistani arsenals, it is madness to spend billions of rupees on the purchase of conventional arms. We have to reduce our arms acquisition and use that money for the betterment and development of Pakistan. It is a fact that we cannot afford an arms race with India. Pakistan has enough capability and credibility to deter India from any undesirable action. This is the time to focus on real threat, which is haunting us in the shape of economic meltdown, internal subversion and foreign involvement.

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