It is a widely held belief that if free and fair elections were held in Pakistan today, there is a great chance that PTI would emerge as a clear winner. Different independent polls put the popularity of Imran Khan, the leader of PTI, well above leadership of PPP and PML(N). Fair elections could put PTI in solid position to form next government. Interests of common people have been always been neglected by previous governments. People are sick and tired of same old faces and their unfair policies. They are looking towards PTI as alternate leadership. As the time for elections nears, voters are beginning to question what solutions PTI offers. They want to know what PTI stands for and how PTI policies will benefit their lives and their families. Most importantly they want to know about the social and economic policies of PTI.
With a population of 180 million, Pakistan is the 6th most populated nation in the world. Total area of 196,095 sq km makes it the 36th largest nation in the world. Economically Pakistan is significant as GDP of $465 Billion makes it is 28th largest economy in the world. It also has the world’s 10th largest labour force of around 56 million people. . Unfortunately, Pakistan’s tax to GDP ratio of 14% is one of the lowest in the world. It’s GDP per capita is merely $2,500 ranking 182nd in the world. 24% of Pakistan’s population is living below the poverty line and an unemployment rate is 15%. One of the problems Pakistan faces is that it consumes more than it saves; the net saving is less than 15% and in order to sustain a growth of at least 6%, a minimum of 25% investment is necessary.
I will try to focus on the socioeconomic policies of PTI. The political orientation of PTI is centralist, or slightly left to the center. PTI encourages policies that lie in the middle between left and right winged politics such as economic and social liberalism. PTI believes that the state has a legitimate role in economic and social issues such as unemployment, healthcare and education. We believe in a free market, but the government must safeguard public interest by implementation of policies of consumer protection, fair market competition, fair labour laws, free trade and anti monopoly policies. Rule of law, due process, liberty of individuals (including freedom of religion, speech, press, business) equal rights and opportunity are also integral part of PTI’s philosophy. Government must enforce corruption free society and offer equal opportunities to everyone. The Party believes in the protection of the workers, as well. The government should have the right to regulate private enterprises in the interest of the workers and consumers. In general, the Party supports a populist government: a government that merely provides the framework for the public rather than running their lives.
PTI also believes in a mixed economy consisting of private enterprise and publicly owned or subsidized uniformed programs of education, universal health care (particularly for the rural Population), child care and related social services for all citizens and an extensive system of social security are the only sure ways to counter poverty.
Below are some of socioeconomic policies of PTI. Proper implementation and execution of these policies will put country on the course of economic prosperity and social development.
PTI supports policies which can be best defined as export-oriented-industrialization, meaning that the party’s trade and economic policies aim to speed up the industrialization process of the country by encouraging export of products for which the nation has comparative advantage. An economy such as Pakistan’s that is so rich in natural resources must transform into a more industrialized economy. Currently, Pakistan exports textiles, leather, rice, sports goods and surgical goods. Most of these exports are limited to only a few markets – USA, EU and the Middle East. Pakistan must push towards higher value and knowledge‐based industries and explore new products and markets. PTI plans to provide special incentives and credit-packages to support the small to medium sized industries to increase their exports. Pakistan has comparative advantage in labour costs and labour‐intensive manufacturing.
Focus on taking advantage of Natural Resources
Pakistan is very rich in natural resources and has immense reserves of minerals. Gypsum, limestone, iron ore, copper, rock salt, silver, gold, gems, marble, graphite, sulphur, and silica are only a few of the minerals found in Pakistan. Huge reserves of untapped oil and gas reserves are also available in the country. PTI plans to utilize the nation’s natural resources to the greatest advantage for the country, in a way that will promote growth and alleviate poverty. At this moment in time, mineral exploration accounts to only 0.4% of the GDP and this easily holds the potential to increase to 4% of GDP through proper planning and focus. Pakistan’s mining industry is currently dominated by public sectors and the most of the foreign investors who are operating in Pakistan are from China. The development of these resources is very capital intensive and PTI wants new laws that will encourage foreign investment by providing security to investors by addressing issues such as operating rights, security of tenure, transferability of rights, etc. The lack of infrastructure remains a major constraint to development of these resources and building roads and ports in those regions will be a high priority of PTI. It is also of Importance that revenue from such mining is used to create sustainable development of the region.
PTI focuses heavily on the welfare of labour; the party believes in the freedom of association and collective bargaining in the best interest of labour. PTI is strictly against child and bonded labour and demand a strict enforcement of minimum wage. PTI believes that the safety of the work place, basic health care, old age benefits, skill development, low-income housing are all fundamental rights of labourer. They also want to provide a work place free of any sexual harassment and are strictly against any discrimination on the basis of gender, age, race, colour, religion and overall, believe in equal opportunity for all.
Development of Financial Institutions
PTI fully realizes that the financial system is vitally linked to the economic development. Stable monetary policy plays an important role in the growth of the economy. Economic development creates demands for particular types of financial arrangements, and the financial system responds automatically to these demands. State bank should maintain its control over interest rate to check inflation, growth and unemployment. Balanced budget and a check on the government expenditure are also main priorities of PTI. A well-developed financial system will improve the efficiency of the financing decisions, favouring a better allocation of resources and thereby economic growth. Both market and bank based financial systems are very important for the economic growth of Pakistan. Equity is essential for the emergence and growth of innovative firms. Stock Exchange provides the opportunity for small investors to own shares of the same companies as large investors. Currently, the control of the market is in the hands of a few powerful brokers and in order to increase investor confidence strict laws regarding full disclosure, stock manipulation, inside trading, corporate reporting, and accounting fraud are major priorities. It is very important to improve the regulatory efficiency of the SECP to insure the security of investor capital and maintenance of fair, orderly and efficient market. Banking sector also has an essential role to play with respect to the allocation of funds to the most profitable investment opportunities and with proper policies and incentives that can be achieved. PTI, instead of too much focus on consumer banking; will encourage investment in the infrastructure and industrial development projects.
Agriculture is very important for Pakistan’s economy as it makes up 21% of Pakistan’s GDP and 40 % of labour is employed by this sector. PTI is against the existing feudal system and wants to promote reforms to boost agriculture output to promote social equality. PTI supports land reforms and is very concerned with the lack of full utilization of agriculture land due to big landowners who are not keen on the use of land and supports a heavy tax to discourage such waste. Tenancy reform is also important where 50% of agriculture is harvested under such arrangements. Legislation to improve contractual terms for tenant including crop sharing and security of tenure are important. PTI is also a big supporter of the use of modern techniques, mechanization, availability of high yield seeds fertilizer, availability of low interest loans to small farmers, incentives for production of high yield oil seed cultivation like soybeans, sunflowers and other corps suitable to the country’s soil and climate. PTI government encourages horticulture, floriculture, sericulture, inland fisheries and bee farming. PTI would like to support cottage industries which supplement local agri-products as well as enhancing the development of industries in areas relating to agriculture. PTI believes in subsidies for small farmers and supports taxation for big farmers. PTI supports free movement of food grains throughout country. The Party will make sure farmers get fair price for their production and act against food and other commodities cartel that are responsible for price hikes, inflation and artificial shortage in availably of commodities. PTI also realizes that the irrigation system needs a drastic improvement in relation to proper water management the agriculture output that needs to be increased; more than fifty percent of water is lost due to leakage in delivery system.
As mentioned earlier, Pakistan’s GDP to tax ratio is one of lowest in the world. Pakistan’s main problem is the low government revenues that exist because of tax evasion, loopholes and exemptions. Only 3 million out of 175 million citizens have a national tax number NTN and the actual number of people who pay any tax at all is even lower. As per utility companies, there are 2.75 million commercial connections and only 0.7 million businesses file taxes. Although agriculture contributes 22 percent of Pakistan’s GDP, but only it has only 1 percent role in tax revenue. According to the FBR chief, more than $800 billion is lost annually due to tax evasion. Around $600 billion is lost in direct taxation evasion, mostly in business income tax (WHD) and around $200 billion is lost due to evasion of sale tax, FED and import duties. Corruption is a major factor in tax collection loss. For example, over $50 billion was lost in tax revenue (2007-2011) due to disappearance of 23,952 containers from the Karachi port. In addition to the declared GDP, Pakistan has a huge underground economy which is not reported. Estimates on the underground economy are equal to approximately 50 % of GDP, which is close to $3 trillion.
The complexity and fallibility of the tax law currently is the single most important factor responsible for most of the revenue losses. The fact that Pakistan is the world’s 26th richest country in the world in purchasing power parity should allow for it to be able to triple its revenue if we can convince the people to pay their taxes and put a proper structure in place.
The current tax system is complex, burdensome, and severely limits economic opportunity. PTI also supports a just, uniformed, consistent and fair tax system. Our tax philosophy is to encourage and motivate citizens to create wealth and share a part of their hard earned income by paying tax at a rate which is acceptable to the majority. PTI wants to increase the tax-base, meaning that it believes in the increase of tax payers but believes in lowering current tax rates, thereby lowering the burden of those who are paying taxes for so many years. Research indicates that by putting in place a more extensive, progressive and equitable tax structure, revenues can double if not triple. PTI supports capital gain tax, agriculture tax on big land owners (Farm income tax), a decrease in the indirect tax on poor, an end of exemption in taxes for profitable industries like the textile, sugar and cement industries. There should be an end to the tax loop holes for the rich, a tax on luxury goods and mandatory tax filing for all corporations. The Party wants to introduce programs with incentives and privileges and opportunities for only tax payers. FBR needs to be completely revamped so that it is totally independent. We need to link certain privileges that we enjoy as citizens of Pakistan to registration with the tax department.
Menace of Corruption
PTI always had uncompromising stand against the corruption. It believes that most of the suffering of the common man is due to corruption in the government. According to a few independent reports, Pakistan looses close to $300 billion a year because of corruption. Tough stand against corruption has earned PTI a lot of respect among masses. PTI strongly believe that the rule of law should be enforced and no one should be considered above law. Ordnances such as NRO that gave protection to corruption should be repealed and everyone should be held accountable. There is corruption in virtually every department. As per Transparency International, Pakistan recently lost more than $2 billion in 14 contracts related to Rental power project. Corruption is a major factor for the current energy crisis as current regime does not want to find solution to the problem but want to identify ways to make more money from the desperation of the people. The steel mill lost Rs 22 billion because of corruption and the Railways lost 40 billion in procurement of 150 locomotives. The OGDC lost $3 billion because of drillings rigs contracts. Favouritism, nepotism, misappropriation of public fund, and misuse of power often go an unchecked as agencies and departments responsible for checking corruption are under influence of the same people they are suppose to check. PTI has always demanded independent bodies and judiciary to monitor corruption.
PTI is very fortunate to have a leader like Imran khan who can give hope and reassurance to the people of Pakistan in these uncertain times. PTI has team to bring Pakistan back to the path of economic prosperity. We are very sure of what we are doing, and by putting a plan which includes public education, increase risk and deterrent effect, the removal of incentive and opportunity, monitoring cell, legal prosecution, enforcement of the code of conduct, asset declaration, conflict of interest, protection for whistle blower and policy of zero tolerance we will achieve our goal. God has blessed Pakistan with so much. All it lacks is the leadership to steer it towards glory. Founder of the nation said, "Nature has given you everything, you've got unlimited resources. The foundations of your State has been laid and it is now up to you to build it and build it as quickly as you can. So Go Ahead, I Wish You God-Speed". PTI has political will and dignity and has a leader who has lead by example. PTI can motivate his nation to come out of this quagmire.
SHEIKH ZAKIR ELAHI
ADVISOR TO CHAIRMAN PTI
PLANNING AND POLITICAL AFFAIRS