Let us recap 2011 and some of the changes taking place at various levels. Pakistan witnessed another year of energy deficiency, fiscal deficit, policy led poverty, man made floods, and socio-political instability.
These problems were so sever in nature that they masked some of the good things that actually happened in Pakistan during 2011 (yes there are quite a few, such as decrease in suicide attacks at least in major cities of Pakistan).
In order to meet social sector development challenges, Pakistan has been heavily relying on external actors and factors. The revenue collected by Government of Pakistan is barely enough to meet debt repayment and defense expenditures. Day to day domestic expenditures are met through domestic borrowing, while social sector development is linked to external help, aid and loans. This is precisely the reason that Public Sector Development Program gets axed when an external commitment be it is “Kerry Lugar Money” or “Friends of Pakistan Forum” pledges does not come through.
Economic and security crises coupled with changing priorities in the developed world necessitate nations such as ours to redefine paradigms of sustainable development amid ‘curtailed aid’ or ‘no aid’ scenarios as the dependence of our development on developed world would no more be sustainable in the near future, meaning we would have to think beyond foreign aid and looking beyond the West.
This year global community would be gathering for Rio+20 conference to carry out a stock taking exercise on what did it achieve on sustainable development front. It would assess the sustainability of some of the solutions that were proposed for sustainable development. While preparing for Rio+20, it is about time for us to make reality check whether the prescriptions prescribed to us so far were relevant, whether those solutions were financially viable, whether we had the political will at the top, demand at grassroots level and expertise at implementers level to deliver, whether all of the abovementioned factors or none of these factors were responsible for our current state of affairs.
At the same time we do need to come up with new normative for our existing problems. To me part of the revised normative of our problem is existing mistrust on our regional resources and capabilities.
Pakistan is almost at the verge of global isolation. It needs to redefine its development policies following a philosophy of “looking East” for survival and doing businesses to enable its people to get benefit out of the growing regionalism. Many are opposing trade normalization efforts between Pakistan and India on both sides of the border. To me these efforts are very timely. They can be an appropriate response to changing priorities of our traditional allies which necessitate diversity of trading partners and exploration of new markets. Year 2012 would be a year of realignment and it is about time we as a nation should also learn to realign our priorities, policies, and practices taking a pro-people approach.
On economic front at the global level, financial crisis in Eurozone, resulting in resignations by Italian and Greek premiers and a virtual surrender of individual EU member’s financial policy sovereignty to EU financial regulators threatened the whole EU philosophy.
This uncertainty also affected the strength of Euro which hit the 16 years lowest against US dollar. However, a strong US dollar did not mean a strong US economy. US economy did receive quite a few shocks during 2011, especially downgrading of sovereign credit rating of United States.
The Obama administration received warnings not only from Federal treasury, but also from China that happens to be the biggest investor in US Federal Securities for irresponsible spending and over borrowing. China, on the other hand, too faced a slowed economic growth for the first time in last 11 years.
Chinese real estate market continues to face slump. Increased unemployment and reduced predictions for growth in the global north are indications of further chaos. London riots, attacks on immigrants in Greece Italy and Spain; demonstrations against international financial institutes and movements like “Occupy Wall Street” are yet other signs that “development” in the global north that many in the global south were following as role model is not sustainable enough.
In fact, that model is unable to take care of the needs of the current generations and it would definitely not be able to fulfill the needs of the future generations.
On political front, one witnessed Arab spring where a combination of internal and external actors and factors proved lethal to the powerful rulers like Hussni Mubarak and Gaddafi whereas few more seem to be on their way out. One of the lessons learnt from Arab Spring is that state security devoid of human security would never result in stable governments.
On energy front, rise in fuel prices to a record high after 2008 and Fukushima nuclear plant tragedy yet again reminded us of the importance of energy efficiency and finding some new solutions to current energy crisis.
On regional front, US’s decision to enter in dialogue with Taliban and NATO’s back channel diplomacy for an honorable exit from Afghanistan may change the geo-political scene of this region.
Changed attitude of US and NATO towards post Osama Pakistan and Pakistan’s recent attempt to assert its existence as sovereign nation to NATO and US governments may reshape West’s priorities, policies, and practices towards this region.
In social sector development, missed commitments for development assistance by most of the developed countries and missed millennium development goals by most of developing countries are points of concern for the poor, marginalized and socially excluded people.
Yet another inconclusive round of talks in Durbin on climate change merits a thorough analysis of existing priorities, policies, and practices of major stakeholders.
The writer is heading Sustainable Development Policy Institute and may be contacted at email@example.com
This article was originally published at: The News
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.