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By Hassan Abbas

Business Recorder

Published Date: Dec 19, 2016

Country still experiencing ‘stabilization fatigue’: speakers

Pakistan is currently experiencing ‘stabilization fatigue ‘ and urgently needs breathing space. It needs a dominant role of fiscal policy and more budgetary resources should be allocated to education, health, skill developments and social safety nets. Such spending will enhance productivity of work force.

Principal and Dean School of Social Sciences, National University of Sciences and Technology, Dr Ashfaq Hassan Khan said this while addressing a conference on economy of today and tomorrow challenges and perspectives organised by Friedrich – Ebert Stifftung – in cooperation with Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Saturday. Former federal minister Javed Jabbar, vice chancellor Pakistan Institute of Development Economics Dr Asad Zaman, noted economists Dr Pervez Tahir and Kaiser Bengali expressed their views on this occasion.

“We need to examine whether higher budget deficit and rising public debt is due to the inability of the government to collect more resources or due to the wrong expenditure priorities or both. Hence greater scrutiny of the composition of expenditure is necessary,” Ashfaq said.

He said there is a need to allocate higher budgetary resources for strengthening countries ‘ physical infrastructure – roads and highways, communication, energy, water, port development, rural roads and farms to market roads development. Such spending will create jobs besides improving investment climate. Pakistan has experienced an average growth rate of only 3.4 percent per annum during 2008-09 to 2015-16. Persistence of low economic growth has failed to create enough jobs for the new entrants as well as for those who were already in the pool of unemployed. Unemployment rate has surged to a 13-year high at over 8 percent while it increased to over 11 percent by 2014-15.

He said annual entrants to labour force declined from an average of 1.3 million during 2008-13 to an average of 0.65 million during 2013-14 and 2014-15 (reduced to one-half).

This reflects the worsening of labour market and lends support to the views that Pakistan ‘s economy has entered into a low growth mode owing to the type of macroeconomic policies that they pursued over the last eight years.

Unemployment rate for graduate and post-graduate degree holders has increased to 20 percent. In other words, one in every five graduate or post-graduate degree holders is unemployed. The problem with the IMF is that it does not differentiate the root causes of the problems. It has standard prescription for all kinds of ailments. Such standard prescription, instead of addressing the problems, gives birth to many economic problems and the people continue to suffer.

Ashfaq said the private sector is borrowing little and not expanding their operations. Private investment is stagnant at single-digit level. Large-scale manufacturing growth slows at less than 2.0 percent per annum. April-September 2016 growth is only 0.3 percent, lowest in many years.

He said tax collection has collapsed with 2 percent growth during July-November 2016. November collection reduced by 8.5 percent and exports are also declining. He also said there is a need to change their macroeconomic policy stance from exclusive stabilization and deficit reduction to striking a balance between stabilization and achieving the development roles of macroeconomic policy.

Former finance minister and noted economist Doctor Hafiz Pasha said that before the announcement of 9th NFC award 18th amendment should be implemented in its letter and spirit. He also said that higher education department and vertical programmes in health should be devolved to provinces.

While discussing the issues in the 9th NFC award, Pasha said AJK, Gilgit-Baltistan, FATA included in TOR of 9th NFC probably is not in line with provisions of constitution on NFC. It is only possible for FATA if it merges into Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. He said that transfer of hydro electricity profits is strictly not under the purview of NFC but more a CCI issue (for determination of the rate for bulk supply of power). He said Article 161(2) of the constitution clearly gives the formula for determination of net profits.