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Archive for August, 2018

EURASIAN REAL POLITIK

Europe and Asia are geographically one land mass, British geographer Sir Halford J. Mackinder maintained as far back as 1904 that whoever controlled the Eurasian heartland would control the world. Soon after, Nicolas Spyman countered with the thesis that whoever controlled Eurasia’s rim would control the heartland and the world. China’s Belt and Road Initiative’s (BRI) enterprise of six economic corridors shifts the global developmental initiatives from the Indian and Pacific Oceans to the Eurasian mainland.

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COMMON MAN’S UNCOMMON PM

Imran Khan won over the hearts of the masses by his very candid and honest manner in his address to the nation as PM. Delivered from the heart in plain words, his talking points scribbled in his own handwriting he meant what he said. The nation has been waiting to hear from their leaders for the last 71 years about the poor-rich divide and the vital issues haunting the masses on the poverty line or barely above it. Not attacking the Opposition directly, he held them responsible for the current debt crisis of Rs 28 trillion that 10 years ago (2008) was only Rs. 6 trillion.

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ACCOUNTABILITY BEGINS AT HOME

A democratic form of govt being accountable to the people, the elected representatives are accountable to the people who elect them. Our enduring constant crisis in governance stems from our inept and corrupt rulers trampling the essential pillars of good governance, rule of law and accountability. This gives rise to unbridled and widespread corruption, low human development and higher poverty levels.

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SETTING THE TONE FOR THE FUTURE

Without significant progress on the political scene for years Imran Khan was mercilessly mocked by many, none so viciously as Declan Walsh, the Guardian’s former correspondent for Pakistan. He went the ultimate in ridiculing Imran in an August 31, 2005 article as a “a miserable politician whose ideas and affiliations since entering politics in 1996 have swerved and skidded like a rickshaw in a rain shower”. I would like to invite my friend Declan to come and ascertain for himself the genuine political appeal and adulation the PTI chairman now universally commands in the country, certainly among friends but surprisingly among some erstwhile foes alike. One should not scribe one’s perceptions from the vibes obtaining on the cocktail circuit. The popular vote of 16 million plus far exceeds the number of seats the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) should have got on a commensurate basis.

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CHALLENGES INTO OPPORTUNITIES

Poised to become the Prime Minister (PM). Imran Khan, Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) will lead a new Coalition govt. Among the acute challenges will be severe distress in the economy. Foreign exchange reserves have depleted due to widening of current account deficit and repayment of previous loans. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) may be approached for a US$10 to 15 billion bailout package to stabilise the external sector. Rather difficult given that the US has a say in IMF affairs and US-Pakistan relations are at their lowest ebb. Out of the blue came a warning shot, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warning Pakistan, “There’s no rationale for IMF tax dollars, and associated with that American dollars that are part of the IMF funding, for those to go to bail out Chinese bondholders or China itself”. While the coupling of one with the other is mystifying, for the foreseeable future the IMF option therefore appears closed. With the talk of a bailout by China not confirmed, the PTI govt needs engage the US govt with pragmatism, apprising them of the new dynamics emerging in the region and the need for both the countries to have a more constructive relationship.

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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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