Pakistan’s game changers and lost opportunities (2)

Pakistan’s Game Changers & Lost Opportunities

Since its birth in 1947, Pakistan has struggled to realize its potential and transform into a developed, prosperous nation. Time and again, successive governments have promoted various projects and initiatives as potential “game changers” that would finally unlock rapid economic growth and improve the welfare of Pakistanis. However, for a variety of reasons, these much-touted game changers have consistently fallen short of their promised impact.

The Nuclear Program: A Costly Deterrent

Pakistan’s pursuit of nuclear weapons capability beginning in the 1970s was justified as providing a deterrent against military threats from a much larger India. After demonstrating its nuclear capability in 1998, Pakistan acquired a nuclear deterrent but at a high cost. The sanctions that followed starved key sectors of investment and talent, setting back economic development for years. While securing territorial integrity, the focus on defense spending has starved education, health and infrastructure – areas more likely to uplift ordinary citizens’ lives.

Gwadar Port: White Elephant or Strategic Asset?

The development of Gwadar Port was announced as a game-changing infrastructure project that would energize trade, connect Pakistan to Central Asia, and develop underdeveloped Balochistan province. While geostrategically located, minimal shipping traffic raises questions if the port will ever emerge from underutilization. The local Baloch population continues to protest over lacking economic benefits, with militant attacks and movement restrictions creating uncertain security for businesses. For now, the port remains a showcase project not yet delivering transformative impact.

CPEC: Road to Nowhere or Road to Prosperity?

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) promised a massive $64 billion investment building roads, power plants and special economic zones. The completed projects have patched infrastructure gaps but thus far failed to catalyze industrialization or exports at the scale imagined. Pakistan’s external debt has climbed as CPEC projects utilize expensive Chinese loans. Energy projects have been dogged by corporate disputes over tariffs and guaranteed profits assured to Chinese companies. While useful transport infrastructure connects north to south, the eastern Indus region remains neglected. The promised economic revolution awaits as CPEC 2.0 plans are still being charted.

Missed Opportunities

Beyond flawed execution, Pakistan’s dependence on mega projects versus broad-based development has caused many missed opportunities. Never has agricultural productivity seen sustained government focus, missing immense potential in fertile lands and a huge rural populace. Likewise, consistent underinvestment in health and education has resulted in human capital deficits now impeding economic advancement. Pakistan also failed to develop its endowment of minerals, gas and other natural resources, losing out on mining/extraction industries seen in comparable developing countries. Tourism featuring stunning mountain geography and ancient historical sites also remains untapped.

Unlocking Pakistan’s Promise

Decade after decade, Pakistan’s promise remains unfulfilled as a few glossy game changers fail to uplift human development indicators or catalyze across-the-board economic activity that impacts ordinary citizens’ lives. Smarter strategy is for consistent, stable policies across changing governments to develop pillars vital for growth. Ensuing points are some fields which require immediate addressal to uplift normal life in Pakistan

• Human Capital Investment: Quality healthcare, education, skills training and opportunities for women/youth to drive productivity

• Infrastructure Development: Transport, Energy, Water Resources, and Urban Planning

• Institutional Reform: Property Rights, Financial Access, Regulatory Framework, E-Governance

• Balanced Regional Growth: Rural Development, Small Cities/Towns, Spread Industries

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