In January 2023, anxiety gripped the nation. Conversations were filled with pessimism about the country’s situation as the IMF’s terms became increasingly challenging. The price of petrol soared to 331 rupees 80 paise per liter, contributing to heightened concerns amid rising interest rates.
Since 2022, the interest rate had surged rapidly to 16%. The dollar’s value skyrocketed, causing widespread worry. With the dollar reaching 307 rupees, pessimists speculated it might climb even higher, potentially hitting 350 or even 400 rupees.
Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves dwindled, reaching a mere 3 billion dollars in the State Bank, sparking discussions of national bankruptcy. Simultaneously, smuggling along the Pak-Afghan border surged, leading to increased domestic food prices and a skyrocketing volume of imports.
Come April 2023, the IMF released a report projecting a meager 0.05 percent increase in Pakistan’s economic growth, intensifying worries. Foreign investors contemplated leaving, and the IMF imposed a series of conditions, including raising interest rates, petrol prices, electricity rates, gas prices, and imposing heavy taxes on citizens.
Negativity pervaded social media and news channels, pressuring the stock market and causing a bleak outlook for the economy.
However, a shift occurred in October, leading the IMF to release a report forecasting a 2.5 percent growth in Pakistan’s economy by December, with an expected doubling to 5% in 2024. This positive turn resulted from the government and armed forces collaborating with businessmen to address economic issues.
The government focused on tackling sectors that were illegally harming Pakistan’s economy. The key area identified was the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, a major hub for smuggling that had been negatively impacting Pakistan for years. As the government cracked down on smuggling, the impact was immediately evident on the import bill.
To curb the soaring dollar, a crackdown targeted those artificially inflating its value, leading to a drop from 307 rupees to 278 rupees. Additionally, the government reduced the petrol price from Rs 331 to Rs 267 per liter to ease the burden on the public.
Despite surpassing the IMF’s tax target, questions lingered about the increased prices of electricity and gas. The public, facing a 22% interest rate and over 40% inflation, looked toward upcoming elections with hope.
Political parties vowed to reduce electricity prices, with some promising free units and nationwide access to fresh water. Skepticism remains due to past unfulfilled promises, and voters ponder whether politicians will stick to their manifestos this time.
Despite challenging conditions, Pakistan’s exports surged by 38%, diplomatic relations improved globally, and significant investments were secured from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. Trade with China increased by 70%, and various agreements were signed related to agriculture, refinery, mining, and IT.
As the country approaches the 2024 general elections, the voters should scrutinize political candidates based on their past performance and not be swayed by excuses. The focus is on choosing leaders committed to real work, protecting national interests, and promoting economic development. The call to action encourages voters to use their voices wisely and support candidates with a demonstrated commitment to the country’s progress and the well-being of its people.