By Ghalib Nishtar
The concept of ‘Striving towards a more equitable Pakistan’ is one, which is fundamental to the stability of Pakistan. It is not only a potentially effective concept but is a vision that is close to every Pakistani’s heart. Global environment, policies and frameworks have begun to unfold changes that have deep implications on our economy – these changes have become more visible and unfolding at a faster pace post 9/11 than we can adjust and absorb. We now live in a globally connected world – a world that has come closer due to the ICT (Information and Communication Technology) revolution and a world where exploding populations continue to pose a challenge to economic resources and environment.
We can no longer afford to live in the bliss of ignorance nor isolate ourselves from what is happening around the world and in our region. These factors have brought about a realization that a connected world is a more aware world, hence a more competitive world and it is imperative that we face up to these realities and come up with appropriate solutions in order to survive the prevalent cutthroat competition.
Pakistan is at a critical juncture; where there are great expectations for economic reform based on equity and social justice and the public is hopeful that the reforms set forth will centre around the less privileged. It is a time when the global frameworks and priorities are beginning to have serious implications for economic realities and our capacities to comprehend and overcome these challenges as a nation is coming under serious stress. It is important to realize that while our ability to influence policy and change at the global level may be limited, our endeavours to look for new and innovative ways to address the situation at home can and will bear fruit.
At this point in time it is important that Pakistan leverage upon its strengths and hedge against its weaknesses, this requires effective policies and incentive mechanisms. Additionally, a glance on the more immediate repercussions that are unfolding reveals a major source of concern stemming from the ever growing income disparities. This issue definitely calls for immediate attention; it needs to be addressed at every level beginning with the question of how parity between incomes across population segments can be maintained.
The answer lies in ensuring that we have mechanisms that attract greater investments for sectors that serve the needs of the economically more vulnerable segments of the population and transfer mechanisms that facilitate the flow of greater resources to them. Beyond these the mechanisms and institutions must be effective in targeting the lower strata of the economy whilst being transparent and accountable. While on the face of it this falls exclusively within the ambit of public policy, if the right fiscal incentives exist its implementation can be fostered for the private sector to be roped into the process of development through public-private partnership models in order to supplement the efforts of the state. However it will be incumbent upon the business and the private sector to come up with programs that are effective in targeting the economically vulnerable people and have the necessary accountability and transparency.
The concept that follows is that of driving development not just through public expenditure and philanthropy but also through profits. It is about encouraging a new class of entrepreneurs in our society – a society that is socially responsible and able to make socially responsible investment (SRI’s). SRI is not a totally new concept and ranks high on investors’ agendas today across more developed regions of the world. According to one estimate, SRIs have risen to USD 2.3 trillion in the US and EUR 1.0 trillion in Europe in recent years. In essence SRIs strive to consider both the financial return on the investment along with its social, environmental and ethical consequences.
Source: The Nation, 16/6/2008