Our economic situation has been like watching a train wreck in slow motion in recent months. Despite a chorus of well-meaning voices urging him to act with reason and common sense, the finance minister stubbornly stuck to policies that were bound to land him in conflict with the IMF until it was too late. Few believed him when he claimed shortly after taking over that he could sway the fund to his liking.
A country on the verge of default does not impose its terms on its creditors. He persisted with his ill-conceived strategy. Instead of making a serious effort to address the economy’s core imbalances, he wasted time badgering the IMF and insisting on dictating the terms of the bailout. As a result, despite the fact that foreign exchange inflows have rapidly dried up, the ninth review of the funding programme, which was originally scheduled for October, remains pending.
The IMF mission is now said to have promised to move the case to the executive board “as quickly as possible,” as opposed to the normal six-week process. Now that the government’s commitments for programme implementation are clear and there is no confusion about needed policies, the two sides are working together to secure financing from bilateral lenders and international financial institutions to keep the country current on external payments. Currently, this is still a work in progress, and the Fund is assisting with coordination, according to a reliable source.
‘God willing, next week’ is a refrain we’ve grown accustomed to hearing from the finance minister every few weeks. It happened again yesterday. Unfortunately, it appears that we may have run out of time. Default, once dismissed as an irrational fear, is now looking increasingly likely, no matter how vehemently the finance minister denies it.
Nothing, however, appears to humble the PML-N or Ishaq Dar. They are still unwilling to admit that much of the current mess is the result of his bluster in the finance ministry. Miftah Ismail appeared to be proactive in addressing Pakistan’s issues, which Washington insiders acknowledge. The IMF, on the other hand, appears unwilling to trust Mr. Dar, who appears to have a poor understanding of Pakistan’s economic problems and no stomach for necessary reforms.
We have reached a point where even IMF approval may not be enough to save us from further harm as a result of his efforts. Not only has the economy suffered long-term damage, but so has the national psyche. Faith in the country’s future, whether economic or otherwise, has dwindled. The vast majority of Pakistanis do not have enough food for three meals, and even the better-off are concerned about the country’s ability to provide them with a secure future.
Our brightest young minds, having lost all hope in themselves, are planning to start new lives in foreign lands. Repairing the damage will take years, if not decades.The Sharifs had imposed Mr. Dar on this country despite the outpouring of protests from everyone who had seen his policies thoroughly discredited in the past. They had ignored warnings from within their own ranks about the disaster he could cause. They must abandon their support for a man who has single-handedly destroyed the future of millions of Pakistanis. His burden must now be lifted from the country.