SOMETIMES, election-related messaging and sloganeering can stretch the bounds of credulity. Now it seems that the government is preparing a set of “talking points” to take to the general public regarding its “economic successes”. The minutes of a cabinet meeting held earlier in December are reflective of a weak effort to try and hype up an economic track record for election purposes, to develop a narrative of economic success for a government that is notorious for its indifference to the economy and its myriad ailments. And of all people, it is the so-called technocratic finance minister, only recently labelled a “suitcase economist” by some of his own party colleagues, who has been tasked with developing this blueprint of hype.
From the minutes of the cabinet meeting where the plan was discussed, it appears the common man will be told that between Pakistan and neighbouring countries, the prices of food items are lowest in Pakistan, and this is because of the government’s policies. Will it work? Highly unlikely. Does the common man really care what the state of affairs is in neighbouring countries? And isn’t it possible that in spite of being more dear, such items of daily use may actually be more comfortably within reach of the common man in those countries because their targeted subsidy schemes are better than ours, or the rate at which incomes are growing for the common man over there is higher? It’s a long shot for this government to try and spin a narrative of economic success since the hype and the hopes it seeks to fan will fly massively in the face of the lived experience of the common citizenry of Pakistan.
The one area where this government could claim success has been the effort to normalise trade ties with India. This is a potential strategic game-changer and could form the most important legacy of this government in the decades to come. Yet even here it has not done the needful. Dec 31 was the date by when the grant of MFN status was to have been made and the negative list abolished. Nothing of the sort is about to happen, because the government has not been able to build the consensus, or stand up to certain groups that prefer to remain wedded to the past. With failure as its track record in all major areas of economic management, it might be better for the government to avoid any mention of governance altogether rather than develop a strategy to sell a hyped-up version to the general public.