Goodbye, economy- Dr Farrukh Saleem

What has been happening to our economy for the past 100 days is what a professional street woman could not have withstood for a night. Consider the following: First, 38 per cent of our labour force is employed by our textile sector. Second, nearly 50 per cent of all manufacturing in this country is done by our textile sector. Third, textile exports stand at 62 per cent of our total exports. Now imagine; the textile sector is on the verge of collapse.

For an average textile spinning unit, energy costs have gone up by Rs4 million a month and wages by Rs1 million a month. Two out of every three spinning units are no longer able to breakeven. Over the past seven years, when lending rates were as low as 3 per cent to 4 per cent, Pakistan’s textile industry had invested some $5 billion into expansion and modernization. Interest rates have since shot up to 13 per cent increasing interest costs of an average textile unit by Rs100 million a year. Industry leaders now insist that half of the 310 spinning units will shut down within the next three months.

If our textile sector is on the verge of collapse then the future of 38 per cent of Pakistan’s labour force is at stake. If our textile sector is on the verge of collapse then the future of our entire manufacturing sector is at stake. Some $10 billion worth of exports are also at stake.

Is the government worried? What a stupid question. The real question is: where is the government? More precisely; just who is the government? Imagine; our soft-spoken, hard-thinking minister of finance was not taken on board when the rate of gas was jacked up by a colossal 68 per cent (for captive power plants).

On March 25, Syed Makhdoom Yousuf Raza Gilani took the oath of office. That day the value of all commercial entities listed on the Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) stood at Rs4.6 trillion. In exactly 100 days, the value of all commercial entities listed on the KSE went down to Rs3.6 trillion. Pakistan is poorer by a trillion rupees; that’s like becoming poorer by Rs10 billion a day every day for the past 100 days.

On March 25, Syed Makhdoom Yousuf Raza Gilani took the oath of office. That Tuesday a dollar was worth Rs62.2. In exactly 100 days, the rupee lost a depressing 12.5 per cent. If the trend persists then in another 100 days a dollar will be worth a distressing Rs80 (someone from Multan once told me a way to win both in this and the world hereafter; pray five times a day and buy dollars).

On March 25, Syed Makhdoom Yousuf Raza Gilani took the oath of office. That day Pakistan’s foreign currency reserves stood at $13 billion. In exactly 100 days, we have lost a hefty $3 billion, a wholesome $30 million a day every day for the past 100 days. If the trend persists then in another 300 days we will be down to zero. Our import cover, in the meanwhile, stands at a jittery 3.2 months (India’s reserves stand at $314 billion).

Admittedly, the current government’s entire burden is inherited liabilities. The Musharraf-led junta, in preparation for elections, emptied the treasury by sustaining some Rs500 billion worth of subsidies. Yes, Syed Makhdoom Yousuf Raza Gilani had taken over a bankrupt treasury but his government is yet to take a step to stop the rot.

Do we have to scream till we are blue in the face? America has moved aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln from the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea. Yes, there’s nothing blooming but someone has got to stop the rot. Our government wedded to its factory of delusions. Their delusions producing nothing but ‘scars and broken dreams’. Our world falling apart. Are they waiting till we meet our end? Please stop the clock, stop the rot. Goodbye, Peshawar. Goodbye, economy. Goodbye, politics. Hello Taliban.

The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance columnist. Email: farrukh15@hotmail.com

Source: The News, 20/7/2008

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