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Sartaj Aziz

OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE GOVT

The balance of payment crisis has been aggravated by major currency devaluations taking place over the past few months, the Rupee plunging 15% since December last. Surprisingly the currency has appreciated by 4% .e. Rs 7.00 since Imran Khan’s elections on July 25. The State Bank having had to raise interest rates, the current-account gap widened by 43% in the last fiscal year with foreign-exchange reserves dropping alarmingly to $ 9.1 billion. While a China- sponsored “bailout” is rumoured, the newly elected govt might approach the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These loans come typically with strings attached i.e. curbing fiscal deficits, tighter monetary policy, etc one can expect even tougher conditions given that many structural reforms promised to the IMF were either delayed or not done by the previous govt. The US being front and center in any IMF initiative, one can also expect another boat of “do more”.

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NATIONAL WATER POLICY

The Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) delivered a grim warning that “water” availability in the country had touched the “water stress line” in 1990 before crossing the “water scarcity line” in 2005, without positive action the country would run out of water by 2025. “Despite having the world’s largest glaciers, Pakistan is among the world’s 36 most water-stressed countries. As the population rapidly increases, water demand is projected to far outstrip supply. Immediate coordinated planning and implementation is required to avert disaster”. Without measures to save rapidly depleting water resources, climate change coupled with rapid urbanisation and population growth will further impact the availability of water. With a drought-like situation likely in the near future, the gravity of the situation can be graphically illustrated from the per capita availability of water in 1947 being over 5,000 cubic metres, has shrunk to just 1,000 cubic metres today.

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The Making of History

History was in the making on the afternoon of Friday Nov 14 2014. Throwing aside diplomatic norms, Ashraf Ghani on his first State visit to Pakistan after being sworn in as Afghanistan’s President, visited GHQ immediately after landing at Islamabad. Former Pakistani Ambassador to Kabul Rustam Shah Mohmand commented that a foreign Head of State heading straight towards a military HQ on arrival carries a lot more than ceremonial importance, “the Afghan President means business, he knows where the real power rests”. He does indeed!

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The Making of a President

Mamnoon Hussain stands elected as the 12th President of Pakistan but not before quite unnecessary controversy generated by the Supreme Court (SC) . The PML (N) had the required numbers even if PPP had not boycotted the Presidential elections process. The “unconditional” support from PPP’s former ally, the MQM, gave additional insurance. The PPP ruling party in Sindh created history by walking out of their own Assembly.

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