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Socio-Economic Initiatives and Uplift

14 August 2021


Muhammad Zahid Rifat :
Pakistan's economy is moving progressively on higher inclusive and sustainable growth  path  on the back of various  measures and resultant achievements despite myriad of sorts of challenges.
Pakistan was implementing  policy of stabilization of national economy post crisis of 2017-18 and the economy was recovering from macroeconomic imbalances but pandemic of COVID-19 slowed down the pace which was recovered initially but the advent of second and third waves of Corona Virus  posed further serious challenges which were, however, met by the incumbent federal government with its timely prudent policies.
National economy of Pakistan already had volatile growth pattern over the years marked by regular boom and bust cycles facing challenges in achieving long-term and inclusive growth. In the backdrop of host of challenges, the present government focused on an economic vision of securing sustainable  economic growth through improved efficiency, reduced cost of doing business, bettered regulatory environment, enhanced productivity and increased investment.
During the last three years of the incumbent federal government, it had faced numerous economic challenges which were somehow aggravated by the pandemic of COVID-19. However, the federal government has quite successfully progressed from recovery and stabilization of the national economy toits sustainable growth.
The priorities of the federal government matched by socio-economic initiatives included inclusive and sustainable economic growth, pro-poor initiatives and social safety net through the Ehsaas Programme's vertical and horizontal expansion, reduction in inflation and price control and monitoring, increased development spending aiming at creation of maximum employment opportunities, the Prime Minister's initiatives including Kamyab  Jawan and Kissan Programmes, impact mitigation of COVID-19 and the continuation of the Rs 1.24 trillion Economic Stimulus Package  announced in March 2020 and extended for FY 2021,  circular debt financing and power subsidies, revenue  mobilization without resorting to levying of new taxes,  supporting the Housing Sector and the Construction Industry  through Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) support  programmes,  facilitating  expatriates home remittances and savings through innovative Roshan Digital Account, Pakistan remittances initiatives, providing relief to the vulnerable segments of the society through all possible measures among othernumber of measures.
The impact of the federal government's timely and appropriate  measures is  very much visible in the form of a V-shaped economic recovery  on the back of broad-based growth across all sectors.
As a result of the federal government timely effective policies and initiatives,  besides national economy witnessing  a V-shaped recovery, some other achievements reported during the last financial 2020-21 reported were as under; the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) rate was estimated to be 2.94 per cent against the targeted growth of 2.1 %  through the policyinitiatives;besides extending the Economic Stimulus for the FY 2021, an amount of Rs 155 billion was also released to mitigate the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 pandemic; home remittances by Overseas Pakistanis grew significantly; Current Account balance also showed improvement; country's exports also showed appreciable turnaround.
Furthermore. the World Bank duly recognized Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme as being amongst the top four social protection interventions in the world in terms of number  of peoples covered, the International Monetary Fund (IMF)  also appreciated the government policies which it remarked have been quite crucial in supporting the national economy  and saving lives and livelihoods of the vulnerable segments of the society from adverse impact of COVID-19 pandemic.
In alignment with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) the federal  government is attaching  high priority to poverty alleviation besides  urban development, access to affordable housing, access to mass media and preservation of national heritage and promotion of culture which will also be contributing to  achieving the target of inclusive growth. The rising trend of poverty related public expenditures is indeed manifestation of  the federal government's commitment to making progress on SDGs.  According to figures available from the Ministry of Finance, the federal government had spent as much as Rs 3447 on activities under 17 pro-poor sectors.
Needless to mention here that social protection has a central role to play in addressing the social, economic and health dimensions of the COVID-19 crisis.
Pakistan's largest social protection initiative, Ehsaas,  comprises of over 260 policies initiatives. Ehsaas emergency cash programme  has provided cushion worth Rs 179.8 billion to the vulnerable segments of the society due to COVID-19 and provided Rs 12000 to 15 million  deserving families  for their consumption smoothing,  Ehsaas Roshan Portal links donors with beneficiaries  for provision of basic food  items through private sector and civil society organizations.
As for the economic outlook for less than two months old financial year 2021-22 is concerned, with subsiding pandemic due to vaccine roll out, expected improvement in global economy, anticipation of favourable weather conditions and easing of COVID-19 related restrictions, GDP  is targeted to grow at 4.8 per cent   during 2021-22, a continuum of growth stabilization  during 2020-21. Agriculture sector is likely to grow at 3.5 per cent on the back of revival of cotton, availability of water, certified seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and agriculture credit facilities.
Industrial sector is expected to maintain  its growth momentum  and is targeted to grow  at around 6.2 per cent on the back of  sustained Large Scale Manufacturing (LSM)  growth of 6 per cent,  collateral-free credit guarantee scheme for SMEs, the buoyancy in construction with spillovers in allied industries. The services sector is also set to grow at 4.7 per cent on the back of the envisaged growth in agriculture and industry sectors.
On the fiscal and monetary front, average inflation is targeted toremain within 8 per cent on the basis of expected  adjustments in energy tariffs while high global  food and commodity prices may keep upward pressure.
On external front, imports are expected to grow significantly at 9.5 per cent , however, robust growth in home remittances (10 per cent) and modest growth  in exports ( 6.5 per cent) are likely to offset of its impact. Thus current account deficit is projected to remain subsided around 0.7 percent of GDP. However, building  capabilities and providing opportunities through public investment will hopefully help to arrest  widespread unemployment in the country and sustaining the national economy's growth momentum.
With number of socio-economic initiatives being persisted by the federal government aiming at ensuring and maintaining national economy growth pace despite waves after waves of COVID-19 Pandemic adverse impacts, it is quite appreciable to mention here in conclusion that the federal government is engaged  in fighting three-pronged war for maintaining pace of economic growth moving onward from stability, expanding the social protection network to cover maximum number of vulnerable segments of the society through provision of as much relief as possible and offsetting and controlling COVID-19 adverse impacts through  effective measures without harming the daily wagers and workers and other vulnerable segments of the society. The country's economy is moving forward from stability to growth and treading steadily  on the path of progress and prosperity as the federal government is committed to do all that is possible to be accomplished through socio-economic initiatives for providing relief and assistance to the people at large. There are signs of hope and progress at the end of the tunnel as the federal government with active collaboration of the people keeps implementing all initiatives aiming at the welfare of the masses throughout the country.

(The writer is Lahore-based Freelance Journalist, Columnist and retired Deputy Controller (News) , Radio Pakistan, Islamabad and can be reached at zahidriffat@gmail.com)

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