Habib University as Pakistan’s leading Liberal Arts institution of higher learning, lays great emphasis on promoting intellectual discourse on relevant and critical issues affecting Pakistan. In keeping with this focus, the University recently hosted Dr. Miftah Ismail, former Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue to speak about Pakistan’s current economic turmoil in the session titled: Pakistan’s Economic Future. The session was moderated by Dr. Aqdas Afzal, Assistant Professor, Social Development and Policy.
The former minister began by stating that Pakistan’s economy suffers from three fundamental problems. Delving deeper he highlighted that first and foremost, as a nation, we don’t live within our means, secondly our focus is on import substitution and not export growth and lastly, there was this ‘elite bargain’ existent in the country, essentially meaning that 99% of the population continues to work for the privileged one percent.
During the talk which was held as part of Habib University efforts to promote intellectual discourse on a variety of issues of importance to the country, Dr. Ismail, alluded to the difficult decisions he had faced at the time of taking office. According to him, “there was no commercial lending, we couldn’t sell our bonds and we weren’t part of the IMF program.”
He pointed out that the Government’s efforts to secure financing from friendly nations also met with cold shoulders and deaf years, “When you are defaulting, no one helps you out.” Raising prices was the only way that the country could have been saved from default.
To a question regarding what Pakistan would be like in 2047, Dr. Ismail, was not too optimistic. He pointed out that in the last 75 years, we had neglected to provide proper education to our youth, and built a society which was inherently intolerant. He cited the example of many educated minority members having left the country for the same reason.
He also pointed out that as a nation, everyone knew the problems but when it came to solving them, there was a tendency to delay them. He questioned how it was possible for people to talk about exporting Information Technology from Pakistan, “You are not developing institutes for IT, but want to export it, that’s not going to happen.”
To a question regarding the possibility of receiving climate reparations, he was of the opinion that there were other countries that were worse off than Pakistan when it came to the effects of climate change adding that Pakistan was not really liked by most countries. Referring to the effects of the floods, Dr. Ismail added that while physical damage might be repaired, how would we be able to repair the emotion and psychological loss suffered by those affected.
In his closing remarks, President Wasif Rizvi, thanked Dr. Ismail for his candor in discussing such pertinent issues. He highlighted how Habib University was trying to play its part of spreading higher education to the youth of Pakistan, by providing 100% scholarships to 40% of each of its upcoming batches.
- Miftah rails against rent-seekers – DAWN
- Miftah spots three problems stifling growth – Business Recorder
- 25 years from now, Miftah not too optimistic about Pakistan’s economic outlook – The News International