By Maira Hassan
“Pakistan has the potential to become the 18th largest economy of world by 2050, leaving behind many strong economies”, according to Jim O’Neill, a British economist.
We all know that Pakistan is a land blessed with many opportunities to grow. Being a business student, I am fascinated with the potential this country holds. With its mineral resources containing copper, gold, iron ore, shale gas, shale oil, marble, granite, etc., along with a high percentage of youth population, (people between the ages of 15-24) Pakistan can be an ideal investment option for foreign investors.
Now the question arises is why Pakistan has still not been able to attract foreign investments? According to the UNCTAD (United Nation Conference on Trade and Development) world investment report 2014-2015, Developing Asia, with its FDI flows surpassing half a trillion US dollars, remained the largest FDI recipient region in the world, accounting for one third of global FDI flows. On the other hand the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) reported a decrease of 58.2% in FDI which fell from $1.7 billion in 2013-14 to just $709.3 million in 2014-15.
Furthermore, Pakistan was ranked at 126 out of 140 economies on the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) for the year 2015-2016 as compared to its neighbors China, India and Iran which were ranked at 28, 55 and 74 respectively.
Well, as nowadays we blame everything on terrorism, I also jumped to the conclusion that this lack of foreign investment in our country is because of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jundallah, Al-Qaeda, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) or the Haqqani network etc., but was surprised to discover that the biggest reason hindering Pakistan from being on the path of growth and success is CORRUPTION.
Even though Pakistan’s NAB (National Accountability Bureau) has worked towards reducing corruption in the public sector, it still remains the first reason for lack of investments as shown in the chart below.
Pakistan faces a lot of issues which could be reasoned as being more severe than corruption but this is a social problem which not only effects everyone but everyone is involved in it. Each Pakistani either gives or takes bribe or they are aware of it but do not report it, making them an accomplice to the crime. When we try to get away from a challan for breaking the signal by paying a few hundred rupees, what we do not realize is that this insignificant crime when goes unpunished, encourage 10 more to do the same, creating a chain reaction. When we pay a small amount in a public office to avoid standing in lines, it develops a permanent flaw in the system resulting in making bribe the “official” way of getting our work done.
Corruption is also the biggest reason for our crippled judicial system because we as a nation have adjusted to the “wrong way” of justice and have stopped fighting for our right. Half of the time we do not report crimes believing that nothing could be done as everyone is corrupt. We do not question the system when a well-known builder of Pakistan, Malik Riaz, openly admits on television that he gives bribe as one cannot do business in Pakistan without it. We laughed when we heard a member of previous government saying “Corruption pay hamara haq nai hay, jab ye culture ban chukka hay Pakistan ka”, but what we failed to realize is how contagious and deadly this disease of corruption can be.
It doesn’t take a business student to realize the benefits of business development in Pakistan which amongst would include job creation in our country. More than half of our population is living under the poverty lines earning less than $2 a day, which gives birth to several other issues like, lack of health and education benefits, child labor, creation of slums, increase in street crimes etc. All of these issues could be addressed by trying to solve this one problem of corruption as it will not only bring investments but will also ensure the proper distribution of current and future resources.
Removing corruption is not an easy task but steps can be taken to improve the situation. Freeing the judicial system from any and all outside influences would increase its effectiveness as the decisions would be less biased towards the powerful. Also, speeding up the trial period would bring improvement as quick convictions of criminals will rapidly restore the nations’ faith on the system.
Moreover, living in our comfortable lives, criticizing the politicians, terrorists and neighboring countries for our problems, we forget that we too have the power to influence a positive change in this system or maybe we just pretend to be unaware of our social and moral obligations because it’s easier to blame others then to admit our own mistakes.
If we bring a little change in our way of life by paying proper taxes, refusing to pay bribes (no matter how insignificant the amount to us), putting a little faith in our judicial system and giving it time and support to improve, etc. in short, becoming a positive example for others to follow, we can make a difference.
The contributor is an MBA student at IoBM, Karachi.