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October 10, 2018

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Uncertain market

Uncertain market

The stock market recorded a four percent drop this Monday, the lowest it has been in five months. The KSE-100 index ended a sixth successive session with a loss, plummeting 1328 points as investors in panic sold their investments. The trouble with the stock market that is it not a real indicator of how well an economy is doing. Instead, it reveals how little confidence the public and other investors have in a government’s economic plan. At the moment, foreign investors appear amongst the most worried. Some experts have pointed to the growing uncertainty surrounding the government’s decision on negotiating a deal with the IMF. The PTI government won an election that concluded peacefully in a smooth transfer of power, with a euphoric promise to forge a ‘Naya Pakistan’ in which curbing corruption and improving the economy’s wellbeing would be the government’s top priorities. Initial reports suggested that the stock market and value of the rupee registered a rise as the nascent government came in, which many cited as an indication of investors’ trust in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s leadership and capability.

Could we now rightly say that confidence in the PM Imran Khan has dried out? This would be too much of a strong conclusion to make. It is clear that the PTI’s economic policymaking has not been up to the mark. Fiscal chaos has been created in the supplementary budget, where the numbers are simply not coming together. The new government was expected to give economic certainty, and it has been able to offer anything but. Instead, it has found itself in one unnecessary fight over another. The IMF itself is unsure what to make of the PTI’s Islamic Welfare promise, with its own understanding that Pakistan needs massive economic restructuring. The PTI has struggled in its transition from a populist opposition to a stable government that can act in a timely and effective manner to mitigate the economic crises progressing in the country. After as damaging delay in decision-making, the government has now announced a decision to approach the IMF for an eight to ten-billion-dollar bailout, a move that brings with it a gamut of questions about its costs for development and economic growth in Pakistan. Can this damage be undone? We cannot be sure. This announcement will moderate some of the uncertainty in the stock market but Pakistan is a long way from hitting a stable patch on the rocks.

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