A roadmap for political reform | Political economics


Long-term reform could eventually help Pakistan achieve sustainable development

The word “politics” has a Greek origin. It means making decisions as a group. The most important aspect of practical politics is the need to reach consensus on important decisions affecting the group of people involved. Pakistan’s political systems have gone through many changes, but the importance of building consensus remains paramount.

The main political parties in Pakistan range from centre-right and centrist to centre-left ideologies. Then there are the fringe, extreme and radical parties. A historic achievement for the political class was to reach a mature consensus on certain issues and to subscribe to the so-called Democracy Charter. The article aims to suggest some fundamental policy reforms that can lead to long-term sustainable development.

The PTI government had a mixed political posture. It combined centrism with certain centre-left ideas and certain centre-right tropes. Several policy decisions she has made therefore have mixed long-term implications. For example, policy statements regarding import substitution in the first year of government by the trade adviser had a negative impact on the economy. The same applies to remarks circulated by some cabinet members indicating that the government was not as supportive of CPEC as its predecessor. The long-term implications of some of its initiatives such as Pakistan Single Window (PSW) and Pakistan Regulatory Modernization Initiative (PRMI) could have a positive impact on the national economy.

Another long-term positive impact could result from government-initiated social protection schemes. Social protection schemes initially involve net expenditure, but over time they can lead to an increase in the overall output of the economy.

Its heavy focus on fighting corruption and accountability has failed to allow the government to reach consensus, even on issues that should have been bipartisan. The National Assembly did not have standing committees for a long time in 2018. This lack of inclusiveness in decision-making was one of the main sources of frustration among its coalition allies who eventually took over. government party in the vote of no confidence against the prime minister.

This failure to create inclusive decision-making mechanisms within government is also not new. Kitchen cabinets were also known to have existed in previous governments. Political decision-making has become a major factor in some of the state institutions becoming active and revolting against these governments.

Based on international best practices, here are some recommendations for long-term political stability in Pakistan: establishing political boundaries, conceptualizing shadow cabinets, strengthening the roles of parliamentary standing committees, rationalizing the size of the cabinet and local government empowerment. Governments.

Establishing political boundaries involves accepting that some components of decision-making require consensus. This, for example, should include the development of economic policies due to the nature of current economic conditions. This will require considering the needs and advice of all stakeholders and reaching consensus on all issues. Emphasis should be placed on creating an enabling environment where all stakeholders are involved in economic decision-making.

The next step should be to examine the role of shadow firms. In a supportive environment, this can be a very powerful mechanism for the exchange of political wisdom on economic and other issues, as a shadow cabinet works on important political tasks, such as determining federal and provincial budgets. The impact of this method will be greatly enhanced if the government in place is willing to share accurate data with the opposition.

This will require the relevant cabinet member to engage the opposition-appointed member(s) in, for example, the budget-making process. This, in turn, will be an opportunity for elected members to gain first-hand experience of the decision-making process. In addition, the role of the relevant standing committees will evolve with the concept of parallel government. Members who have experienced the fictitious portfolio can be part of the standing committees. This will result in more effective government accountability and more meaningful and practical arguments.

Relevant power and authority should be devolved to the local government level in letter and spirit. The question of the development budget seems to be beyond the legislative capacity of the honorable members of the National and Provincial Assemblies. In order for them to fully focus on macro level issues, there needs to be an effective system in place for micro issues at the local government level.

It will also ensure the transparency of the electoral process and the accessibility of basic amenities to all citizens, regardless of their political affiliation. Similarly, transparency and accountability in the development project approval mechanism will also play a major role. Using a socio-economic scorecard mechanism to provide funds only to the most important socio-economic projects can contribute to growth and development.

This can be followed by a rationalization of the cabinet size. Shadow cabinets can give members of the opposition the experience needed to prepare them for ministerial positions in the future.

Long-term political reforms could eventually help Pakistan achieve sustainable development and a transition to a truly democratic system.

The author directs the Center for Private Sector Engagement at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute.

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