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PIDE hosted three-day 37th AGM and Conference of PSDE

PESHAWAR: The 37th AGM and Conference of the Pakistan Society of Development Economists (PSDE) concluded.

The Conference on “Breaking the Aid-Debt Chains” is being hosted by the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), in collaboration with Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan, said in a press release here on Thursday.

The final day of the Conference kicked off with the third parallel technical session. In the technical session, several papers on diverse topics were presented by researchers from different parts of the country.

The topics of the papers included the lifetime cost of public sector employees, PSDP, public financial management, remittances, debt threat, and gender, among others.

The special lecture on “Fiscal Management for the Revival of the Economy” was delivered by Faisal Rashid of Oxford Policy Management. Faisal Rashid began his lecture by saying that the current period is the most challenging period for Pakistan’s economy.

Faisal Rashid said that in the medium to long term, Pakistan needs to develop an economic reform plan. There must be a focus on increasing revenue through additional untapped sectors, while the energy sector needs immediate reformation too. DISCOs must be privatized, while efforts must be made to minimize transmission and distribution losses. The SOEs are the white elephants that need immediate reform efforts as well to have a meaningful impact in the long term.

A panel, arranged by UNICEF, was on “Improving the Quality of Public Spending.” The session was moderated by Shaaf Najib, PIDE, while the panelists include Dr Manzoor Ahmed, trade specialist, Asim Bashir Khan, development economist, Talat Anwar, BZU, and Ahmed Waqar Qasim, PIDE.

Shaaf Najib introduced the topic by asking whether it is the revenues to be blamed for debt or the expenditures.

Ahmed Waqar Qasim said that when 87% of loanable funds in the system end up getting diverted to the government, that leaves only 13% available to lend to the private sector.

Manzoor Ahmad said that the government ends up skewing the playing field and promoting inefficiencies in the economy. PEPRA rules are outdated and promote inefficiencies and waste.

Asim Bashir said that development in Pakistan is debt-based, and the government is not concerned with performance, efficiency, and effectiveness of service delivery.

Talat Anwar said that if the interest rate is brought down, the debt situation will improve from its currently unsustainable levels.

Regarding improving service delivery, Asim Bashir said that it is a demand-side problem as well as a supply constant which results in budget allocations that are not appropriate to our needs and also go against conventional wisdom.

From the floor, Shahid Kardar asked how the role of the government can be rethought, what functions it should perform, and what functions it should not perform.

The VC PIDE suggested rethinking whether the government needs to keep spending on education and health.

The cohosts of PSDE’s 37th Annual Conference, organized by PIDE, include the World Bank Group, UNICEF, RASTA, the Bank of Punjab, Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund, Saudi Pak Agricultural and Industrial Investment Company, and BZU School of Economics.