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Daily Times Editorial 17 September 2020

ADB forecasts 2pc growth


The thing about projections like the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB), which expects Pakistan’s economy to rebound yet grow among the slowest in the region at about two percent in this fiscal year, is that the analyses and predictions come with all sorts of conditions without meeting which even the meagre gains might not materialise. Just like this time the Manila-based lender is pretty upbeat about Pakistan’s growth prospects in the ongoing fiscal year, but only if all the troubles from the coronavirus do not come back, other economies also reopen and the recent hiccups regarding exports and remittances go away. Now, since everybody knows that is not going to happen just by weaving a magic want, and both forms of inflows require time to be put right, it seems the best we can really hope for this year is pretty strong headwinds despite the decent recovery so far.
ABD is also hoping that the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) get back on track very quickly. And since, going by all the reports in the press, the talks are stalled for the moment because of disagreements stemming from problems related to revenue and deficit figures, exactly the troubles that the pandemic has caused, perhaps this was the Bank’s way of saying that the road ahead is still very bumpy and even if it is travelled very carefully it would just fetch two percent growth, which by all expectations is going to be among the lowest in the region.
Yet the continent is rebounding very strongly because it is being led by ferocious growth in China. Beijing’s stellar recovery has already changed the face of the struggling region because its massive spending program has triggered demand for its own export products as well as commodities which are the life and blood of international trade. This flurry of activity has impacted everything all the way to the mighty US dollar as the yuan has squeezed a lot out of the sole superpower’s currency over the last couple of months. Pakistan should take better advantage of this historic turnaround. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) gives it precious access to China’s funding markets. Perhaps Islamabad could make the case that the pressure from the existing, unexpected situation has forced it to seek softer terms at least in the immediate term. That could lessen some pressure on the IMF front and help Pakistan get back to the bailout program without further delay. Either way, projections of international institutions are always helpful and finding one’s own way in the complex world of international finance.



Yet another rape


The country has not even begun to digest the heart churning story of the motorway gang rape yet the news cycle is already flush with reports of two suspects confessing to raping and killing a minor girl in Karachi. It turns out that the six-year-old girl, who had gone to fetch sweets from a market in the corner of the street where she lived, but was kidnapped and gang raped, then killed, her body burnt and put in a bag before being dumped in a garbage pile somewhere. The situation is made all the more unacceptable because of reports, once again, that the poor girl fell victim to a habitual offender residing on the same street.
How is it that these so called habitual offenders are able to not just roam freely but also feel confident enough to keep indulging in these habits? What is so wrong with our legal system and what on earth will it take to put it right once and for all? How many times will everybody have to hear the explanation that these people are able to commit these crimes so freely because they know that usually there is very little chance that they are going to get caught. And even in the rare case that they are, there are enough loopholes in the system for even habitual offenders, who keep committing the same crime over and over again, to be able to walk free. Even the motorway case offender was caught so quickly because the police had his DNA records in their database; which means he too is a repeat offender who is aided by the system to keep repeating the offence.
The prime minister has promised that the culprits in the motorway attack would feel the full force of the law. But, welcome as that ought to be in normal times, it is not going to be enough anymore. While there is an urgent need for the law to take its course, and be seen taking its course, what we need now is far more comprehensive than just crime and punishment. We must ask ourselves one basic and simple question: How is it that so many countries in the world have been able to overcome this and similar problems? And why is rape such a big problem in countries like India and Pakistan? The predominant narrative has changed very quickly from concerns like the economy and people’s livelihoods to rape, especially the safety of the vulnerable. And the people are going to judge the government for the reforms it is able or unable to introduce.
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