Daily Times Editorial 30 July 2020
New survey points finger at unemployment
One of the many surveys being floated to judge just what about the present economic situation disturbs people the most has found unemployment and loss of earning power to be the biggest twin problems. The novel coronavirus and its ability to take lives is only the third biggest threat. And it’s not too hard to understand once you put your mind to it. There is so much uncertainty out there that any wrong step could mean your life, or at least your career and your income, and then your mind and your life. Indeed, at a time when jobs are on a sharp decline it is only natural for people to suffer from psychological issues that stem from job closure.
That is why it is a fair bet that the demand for psychologists and therapists would have increased in the last two months. That consumers are absolutely miffed and putting away all and any investment decisions considering the circumstances is also only very readily understandable. All this runs sharply counter to official claims of stabilising the economy and almost turning it around, of course, which is why this is that much big news. Anybody hoping that the worst is already behind us is in for an unpleasant surprise, especially if he gets it by way of going to work one fine morning and finding a pink slip ready for him. Economies are collapsing all over the world and Pakistan is not any more shielded than any other in any terms.
The government must now see just what sort of stimulus package it can float to lift the depressed economic mood in the market. It must immediately provide enough liquidity to the central bank to push through another concessional loan package so that businesses are kept from laying off workers. And only when job security is provided in the market, as we have well seen, will sentiment begin to turn. This is just no environment to keep people in, when they can lose their jobs and earnings at the drop of a hat and then nobody’s the wiser for it. They must simply go and look for fresh work in a collapsed market. Nobody has much of a chance in that regard, no matter how big a head start he has. In the end, however fast he’s running, he’ll only run into a hard brick wall.
SAs to PM quit
It turn out that Special Advisor to Prime Minister on Digital Pakistan Dr Tania Aidrus and Special Advisor to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza have quit the cabinet over what is surely criticism from the opposition over their dual nationality status. So now who’s going to lose out the most? These two individuals, among many others, had so selflessly chosen to work from Pakistan and Pakistanis, and now both Pakistan and Pakistanis are going to feel their absence. Dr Aidrus was airlifted all the way from Google to serve Prime Minister Imran Khan and Pakistan. We are way behind the rest of the world in terms of digital technology. And if we are to progress in this day and age, digital technology has to be our leading light.
Dr Zafar Mirza, on the other hand, had a pretty significant part to play in bringing the numbers of both new infections and deaths down in the country. And the cabinet is now going to feel his absence in formalising the way forward. Should this progress now be reversed, the whole nation and all its expatriates will pay for it. All that could lead us to not justg being blacklisted abroad, but our remittances could also be compromised, and unable to contribute to the squeaking economy. It has taken so much to keep this economy functioning and away from the direction that would surely lead it to collapse. That has taken not just relief packages from the federal government but also concessionary loans from the central bank, which has kept jobs intact till now.
So, what’s next? Special Advisor to Prime Minister on Economy Dr Hafeez Shaikh also quits? And where would that leave us? As of now his signature is needed on any document finalised by the cabinet as a relief package. If he now goes, who will the prime minister appoint in his place? Or will he sign those papers himself, since he is the de facto finance minister of Pakistan as well? These are ominous signs and lead to tough decisions, both from the PM’s personal point of view and keeping in mind the whole country for which he is solely responsible. Hopefully no more SAs to PM will quit and this domino effect will not allowed to be built. It is in everybody’s interest, every Pakistani and Pakistan as a whole, that the PM’s cabinet remains whole at this sensitive point in our history.