Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is increasingly acting as Prime Minister of the entire country; this is matter of great satisfaction, indeed.
His orders to the Planning Minister to make Karachi Circular Railway and Keti Bandar part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) can be cited as a manifestation of this welcome change.
He further ordered that the Chinese side be briefed about the commercial viability of both projects at the forthcoming China-Pakistan Joint Co-operation Committee meeting to be held in Beijing in the next two days.
He also directed the Planning Commission to brief and seek the views of chief ministers as early as possible. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s approach to the execution of the CPEC is therefore laudable. Not only will it defuse perceived or real tensions in relation to this mega development project, it will also strengthen federation in an effective and meaningful manner. Only then will the much celebrated 18th Constitutional Amendment achieve some of its grand objectives.
The Prime Minister is, however, required to be advised that he must revisit his decision of placing the regulators under the line ministries without any further loss of time. His assertion to justify this action on the basis of his flawed argument that these regulators were created to regulate the private sector and they instead started regulating the government constitutes a slur on his way of governance.
He must not lose sight of the fact that regulators were created to deal with all sectors and departments, including the line ministries, with a view to ensuring, among other things, greater transparency in governance and a level playing field. Rolling back the powers and autonomy of regulators will not work. There is a dire need of a strengthened role of regulators. They must be afforded enhanced administrative as well as financial autonomy. Limiting the role of Nepra and Ogra is no answer to myriad challenges in power and petroleum sectors.
What is needed is to reduce the cost of doing business. This can be done by addressing technology and talent gap within the government. Growing misuse of Afghan Transit Trade and smuggling to and from Iran need to be checked. We need to provide energy, water and labour at a regionally competitive cost. Trade agreements must enhance employment opportunities and boost manufactured exports instead of commodity exports. Laws need to be simplified by the Centre and provinces.
And Pakistan be repositioned in this digital age. This is a tall order indeed; but there is no escape from reality.