By Mansoor Ahmad

LAHORE: Pessimism in Pakistan is a major hurdle in improvement of the image of Pakistan, which should have improved in view of political stability, economic progress and establishment of the writ of the government throughout the country.

Pakistan is not Afghanistan where the writ of state is limited to Kabul and its vicinity. The country has proved its control by demonstrating that goods coming from China can smoothly travel along China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) route passing through the heart of Balochistan. It showed the world that terrorists do not have the strength to disrupt a cricket match in Lahore despite their surprise attacks a few weeks earlier.

On the economic front, the country has crossed all the necessary landmarks needed to restore the investor confidence. Its foreign exchange reserves are at a comfortable position. Inflation, despite three consecutive increases in petroleum product prices, is still below five percent. The interest rates are lower than those of neighbouring India. GDP growth rate has picked up. Four years back, Pakistan’s GDP growth was at three percent and that of India at 7.5 percent. Today, our growth increased near to five percent and India’s decreased to around seven percent.

CPEC has attracted attention of the entire world towards Pakistan. In fact, it is the only corridor that provides the shortest access to central Asian states, western China and some parts of Russia (via China).

The fruits of these positives have not passed on fully to Pakistan due to its bad perception. Law and order in Karachi, its largest city, has vastly improved. The current crime rate in the city is much less than that in Mumbai, Delhi, Calcutta, New York or Chicago. The crimes in other cities are taken as normal for populations of more than a million. But, every petty crime in Karachi is attributed to terrorism, ethnic strife or communal differences.

We, as a nation, have failed to market our countries. One can understand the apprehension of foreigners in coming to Pakistan but it is regrettable that several overseas Pakistanis are afraid to visit their motherland despite the fact that their very close relatives are safely living the country without any fear or problem. They video-chat with them daily and see for themselves the normal way the functions are taking place.

Still they avoid visiting the country. This reluctance alone creates a very bad impression about the country where they live.

In Pakistan, our leaders take every act done by the government negatively. When some foreign players showed the courage to play cricket match in Lahore they were ridiculed by some public figures. They ignored the fact no foreigner or even many overseas Pakistanis do not muster the courage to visit our country. The match raised the image of Pakistan and which was acknowledged by the prestigious Economist in its latest edition.

Things are mostly right in Pakistan. The economy has a potential to move into top gear. All it needs is efforts at the national level to portray positives of the country.

We should become a manufacturing hub instead of drifting towards a low service economy. The low paid services, like roadside hotels, drivers, and other CPEC route would provide livelihood to at least a million but what we need is a manufacturing base.

We should be entering into joint ventures with the Chinese and western countries to export goods around the globe. With Chinese partnership, we could make products which China is abandoning. These products could be exported to all the destinations where Chinese currently export. Some of these goods would also be needed in China. With the western partners we should target the high-tech markets in China, central Asian states, Middle East and Africa. The Chinese are willing to come but the westerners are afraid because of the country’s bad perception. Pessimists in Pakistan should be persuaded to look at the better sides of Pakistani society and lure foreigners instead of scarring them away.

The country needs a sustained growth rate of above 10 percent for the next 15 years to catch up with its neighbours. The potential is present but would be achieved when the country’s perception improves.