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Thursday, February 22, 2024  
11 Shaban 1445  

What Feb 8 elections mean for Pakistan, according to Atif Mian

Next coalition government looks like previous one-a PDM redux
Economist Atif Mian during a conversation on how unsustainable household indebtedness lead to global financial crises at the World Economic Forum in 2015. Screengrab via YouTube
Economist Atif Mian during a conversation on how unsustainable household indebtedness lead to global financial crises at the World Economic Forum in 2015. Screengrab via YouTube

Pakistan conducted its delayed general elections on February 8, giving hope to over 240 million for a future without years-old issues. Renowned economist Atif Mian has come up with his explanations about what the polls mean for the South Asian country.

In a long thread on X, formerly called Twitter, he spoke about Pakistan issues.

“Pakistan’s economy has consistently fallen behind globally – last year was one of the worse, with the economy actually contracting,” he said and added that every macro fundamental was flashing red: inflation, growth, debt, investment, to name a few.

Like Mian, many analysts have spoken about a host of challenges for the new government: soaring inflation, terrorism, and deteriorating health and education sectors.

Two major political parties, PPP and PML-N, made big promises in their manifestos, but none of them shared concrete plans to revive the economy.

“The federal gov has no money. It cannot even afford to pay the salary of a peon or a soldier without borrowing. The entire tax revenue is consumed after paying provinces their share, pensions to retirees, and interest on debt,” Mian said.

The South Asian country is under an International Monetary Fund programme. Last month, the IMF released the much awaited $700 million tranche under the $3 billion stand-by arrangement.

Pakistan has received 23 IMF bailouts in 75 years and if caretaker Finance Minister Shamshad Akhtar is to be believed the country would have to go for more loan programmes for some time as the economy remains “fragile”.

Mian, who is a professor of economics at the prestigious Princeton University and the first Pakistani to rank among the 25 top economists in the world, cited that inflation cannot be controlled when the entire government is running on a deficit.

“Growth is impossible when government has no money to invest in the future and lack of growth makes every problem worse. The country is bankrupt. It is sinking deeper every year,” he said.

The economic expert lamented that he has never seen such “despondency”, adding that so many people wanting to leave the country.

In the recent past, many investors have switched to other Asian countries or Gulf states for business after political and economic instability in the country.

“Yet no leader has a viable economic plan for the future,” he said.

“It is in this backdrop that Feb 8 elections were held. People are mad – and they have every right to be. 442,353 children died in Pakistan just last year due to poverty that is almost half a million dead kids every year,” Mian said.

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He went on to add that the distance between the ruler and the ruled has never been wider after the general election results.

Independent candidates led the race for National Assembly seats, according to the provisional general election results shared by the country’s top electoral authority.

The US, UK, EU, and Australia have expressed concerns about the electoral process. They have called for a probe into allegations of interference or fraud in the election.

“There is an attempt – once again – to cobble together a compromised group. No one has a plan to fix the economy. But even if they magically did somehow, they cannot do anything because they have lost all trust with their people they are foreigners in their own land,” he said.

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