he Prime Minister’s Adviser on Finance, Hafeez Sheikh’s belief that the accountability process should not adversely affect business in the country is one that representatives on both sides would agree with. However, this is easier said than done. An accountability drive that was equitable and targeted at corrupt individuals in politics and the bureaucracy without playing any favorites might lead to negatively impacting investor confidence in the short-run but will help in instilling confidence in the system in the long-term. The government’s mantra of across-the-board accountability is just that; a slogan. This selective accountability only damages business confidence and does not help rid the system of corruption, as promised by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government.
With discrepancies in the Peshawar BRT project and politicians from the ruling party absolved from any accusations on financial irregularities, the government’s policy only instils the belief that anyone in their good books can get away with murder, while those that oppose it will not be able to work for their betterment or that of the country. This is no different from past governments which favoured their own connections in the business community, which made specific private individuals much richer, but did nothing to benefit the country in general.
The government has looked to reduce the fear of accountability by limiting the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to political cases only, but NAB’s sole focus on members of the opposition points towards political victimisation, rather than a serious attempt to rid the country of corruption. And this is where the problem lies; if the government cannot properly address the fears of the business community and their corruption drive is perceived to be an eyewash, the slogan of ‘change’ continues to be an empty promise and potential investors have no reason to trust economic environment in Pakistan. Given the previous year and many of the more obvious indicators of the economy going the wrong way; what has this government really done to facilitate any productivity or investment in the country?
Sadly, the government might attempt to paint a different picture, but the sad reality is that both foreign and domestic investors have no reason to invest their money into Pakistan’s unstable economy at this point. Hafeez Sheikh’s only argument for facilitating business in the country is that the government has made sure that imported raw materials are not expensive.
The cost of production however, with rising gas and energy tariffs, consistently increasing oil prices and the devaluation of the Rupee is still astronomical and only rising further. The government needs to do better, and until it improves its performance in matter related to the economy, its hope of increasing investment and economic opportunities in the country may continue to be a distant pipedream.