How to pull Pakistan out of Heavy Debt?

(Zulqarnayn Awan, Lahore)

Pakistan is faced with low standards of living, underdevelopment, and high poverty level, weak and unstable currency, low capital level and low GDP. All the above problems faced by Pakistan are caused by debts which affect not only those who acquire loans but also generations that follow.

Pakistan Government has cut back on social, health, environmental conservation, employment and other important programs. The workers’ unions are fighting against intensified exploitation and attacks on their rights and working conditions. They are mounting a powerful resistance to the drive towards privatization and the single-minded pursuit of maximum profits in the name of global competitiveness. Constant currency devaluation for the last about five years have costs paying the people of Pakistan, including a plunge in output, a squeeze on living standards and the much higher inflation. For a country of an 18 Million people, majority of whom are young and have most of their lives and dreams ahead of them – they deserve a better Government.

Debt Threat to Pak Economy
The debt problem also has internal impacts in addition to the external problem of repayment. Our growing national debt is a threat not only to domestic programs but also adversely affects our foreign policy. The heavily indebted Pakistan have not established a good track record of making improvements in either debt or poverty reduction.

The World Bank and the IMF are said to be the two largest sources of foreign currency loans claiming working for poverty alleviation in the poorest countries of the world and today have a strong influence over economic policies in those countries. Both the institutions are too big, too powerful, and too over-extended working under the influence of rich countries, especially the US, who use the IMF and World Bank as instruments of financial diplomacy.
Both the institutions purposely extended liberal loans to our rulers which are now hard to repay back because most of these loans were either so poorly designed that the political elites of borrowing countries wasted on luxuries or white elephant projects and could not reap enough income to pay them back or in other cases, politicians, government officials and private contractors siphoned off the funds into Swiss and other private international banks and very little was invested productively with a view of achieving sustainable economic growth.

A Short History of SAPs and the Aftermaths
Structural adjustment programs (SAPs) were implemented in Pakistan since the 1990s to ensure the repayment of debts. The SAPs were designed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank and imposed as a condition for further loans. The structural adjustment measures, global, unregulated free markets and lack of protection for emerging economies all contributed to the economic and financial crisis. As a result of adopting SAPs for getting further loans Pakistan is constrained to divert resources away from social provisions to repay debt; those most affected are the poor, especially women and children. Pakistan now pays more money as debt servicing to the World Bank and the IMF each year than it invests in social sectors like education, health and physical infrastructure. Privatization program under SAPs has fostered the worst manifestation of crony capitalism, when choice national assets were sold to cronies of the ruling elite almost free of cost.

These measures have forced the country on a path of deregulated free market economy. Under the SAPs the Government has adopted the principal of cost-recovery for social services and the gradual withdrawal of the state from basic health and educational services in the name of so-called ‘Public Expenditure Review’. SAPs have failed to achieve their goals. They have not created wealth and economic development as unregulated markets did not benefit the poor and failed to protect the delivery of social services; the people of Pakistan still have to suffer under structural adjustment programs.

Deadly Debt Trap
Pakistan trapped in deadly ‘debt prison’ needs concentrated short and long term efforts to come out of it. Unfortunately, till today no workable plan and viable strategy is devised by the government or any political party in opposition to tackle the issue. The debt burden — Rs14.5 billion internal and $60 billion external — is becoming unmanageable as major resources are consumed by debt servicing. The budget allocation of Rs1.52 trillion for retiring public debt and payment of interest during fiscal year 2013-14 would prove short as there was surge of Rs180 billion in external debts alone during July 2013.

On July 29, 2013, the rupee recorded its lowest value against the dollar: Rs102.4 in the interbank market, Rs104.7 in open market, but actual rate was Rs105.5. Continuous slide of the rupee is not merely due to widening demand-supply gap or maneuverings by unscrupulous elements. Other factors are external debt repayments of around $1billion and speculations about official devaluation in the wake of IMF bailout.

Devaluation will have devastating effects e.g. tremendous surge in public debt (one rupee loss in the exchange rate adds Rs60 billion to public debt), enhancement in debt servicing, further widening of fiscal deficit and more expensive imports, especially of crude oil raising cost of all goods and services.
Already huge debt servicing is taking a heavy toll on economy — fiscal deficit for financial year 2012-13 jumped to 8.8 per cent of GDP as shortfall on the part of Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) alone was Rs442 billion. The fast depletion of foreign exchange reserves — from $14.776 billion in July 2011 to $5.153 billion by July 2013 — aggravated the situation. Heavy repayments to the IMF and others plus financing of current account deficit amounting to $2.3 billion in 2012-13 forced the new government to approach the IMF for a bailout package.

The situation on internal debt is equally disturbing. The government, for the first time in the history, borrowed from local banks Rs one trillion during the fiscal year 2012-13. The net government borrowing from domestic banks increased to Rs1.012 trillion between July 1, 2012 and June 28, 2013 against Rs629.9 billion over the same period last fiscal year. The federal government borrowed Rs1.005 trillion for budgetary support as compared to Rs696.5 billion during the corresponding period fiscal year.

The reckless and unabated borrowing from commercial banks is not only retarding growth but also depriving private sector of the much-needed funds for investments. It is but also forcing State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to inject heavy amounts of liquidity in the banking system through frequent open market operations as high borrowings wipe out liquidity from the money market.

The only way to come out of prevalent mess is to accelerate growth, generate employment, enhance tax revenues, and stop financing luxuries of elites and losses of public sector enterprises (PSEs). But the present government, like the PPP-coalition government, is not serious about it. During its election campaign, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) made tall claims that on assuming power it will get rid of the “cancer of external debts”.
However, the PML-N government is knocking the doors of international lenders more vigorously than the PPP. Besides the IMF’s lending of $5.3 billion to pay off previous loan, Government is approaching Asian Development Bank and World Bank for further borrowing. The main priority of the government is to rely more on external borrowing than mobilizing own resources.
Pakistan’s National Debt Details:
Total National Debt: $56.91 Billion
Total External Debt: $67.1 Billion
Interest per Year: $5.4 Billion
GDP: $229.1 Billion
Debt as % of GDP: 24.75%
Population: 176 Million
Debt per Citizen: $321

Comparison with other Nations
Total Debts of Pakistan: $133 Billion
Total Debts of USA: $59.4 Trillion
Total Debts of China: $1.3 Trillion
Total Debts of Japan: $10.46 Trillion

Printing of Currency in Pakistan
• Rs 1.5 to 3 Billion/day
• This much amount of printing leads to Inflation
• Pak recent Inflation rate Almost 10.9%
• Inflation in other countries: Zimbabwe worst effected
• 100 Billion Zimbabwe Dollars can buy only 3 eggs.

Remedies to Reduce Foreign Debts:
• Tax Reforms
• Rapid Economic Growth (i.e. 6% in 2008 and 2.4% GDP growth rate in 2012)
• Foreign Investments
• Promote Economist & Research Scholars
• Eradicating Corruption

Mechanism to Handle External Perspectives of Pak Economy
• Reduce Govt. Expenditure
• Stable basis for Growth
• Getting of Roller Coaster Economy
• Reduce Balance of Payments
• Promote Export
• Reduce Imports
• Expanding Trade Basis
• Implementation of RGST
• Proper Collection and Utilization of Public Finance
• Promote Free Trade with Neighbors
• Encourage FDI's
• Foresightedness in Policy Making

• The challenges faced by Pakistan’s economy are quite formidable but the salvation lies in resumption of growth that will result in decline in both unemployment and the incidence of poverty and preserve the living standards of the middle class.
• The re-prioritization of development expenditures, savings on recurrent expenditure, reduction in across-the-board subsidies to public sector enterprises and corporations, improvement in tax collection and levy of flood surcharge tax along with the grants and donations from the international community for flood rehabilitation works can provide the stimulus for growth.
• Governance reforms are the key to economic stability and growth in Pakistan and should be relentlessly pursued.
• The government needs to extend the masses a helping hand to fend for themselves, not so much by schemes like the BISP, but by providing impetus for the utilization of the huge, idle reservoir of human and natural resources for economic development and peoples’ well-being.


Rate it:
Share Comments Post Comments
Total Views: 2430 Print Article Print
About the Author: Zulqarnayn Awan

Read More Articles by Zulqarnayn Awan: 8 Articles with 6584 views »
Jo Ham Pe Guzri So Guzri Magar Shab e Hijraan
Hamare Ashk Teri Aaqibat Sanwaar Chale...

.. View More

Reviews & Comments

agr Pakistan or qrzae na lae or schedule pae qrzae wapis krta rhae to kb tk qrza khtm ho sktae hain
By: Muhammad usman, Rawalpindi on Sep, 13 2018
Reply Reply
0 Like