Asad Umar: The iceberg that sank the Titanic?

By Humzah Haroon

At such a crucial time in the history of the economy, when Pakistan is amid finalising a 6-8 billion dollar loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), former Finance Minister Asad Umar’s resignation will prove to be extremely volatile for the current economic landscape.

Asad Umar became the Finance Minister in August 2018 and despite the criticism from the opposition, seemed to have things under control for the first few months of his position. However, since then, Pakistan’s economy has been hurt severely. The general prices for commodities have risen. The standards of living for the lower class have decreased. Pakistan has secured $5.6 billion in loans in less than 9 months and the economy does not seem to be doing a lot better.

Irregularities in the economy will never really disappear, that’s just not how it happens. With that in mind, it is the job of the person in charge of the economy and the financial situation of the country to reduce these irregularities. Honestly, Asad Umar may have been trying to do something along those lines and I would like to believe that he made a genuine effort to reduce the economic turmoil present in the country today. Mr. Umar gave two mini-budgets and tried to fix the sad state of affairs in the economy. But as we all know that didn’t really work out too well.

So, can it then be said that this a failure on an individual level and that Asad Umar is to blame or is it a failure on a wider scale with the government to blame? The truth is, we cannot really say unless and until all the facts and inside stories are made available to us. But of what we know so far, both Asad Umar and the government share responsibility for the current situation.

The Blame-Game

Again, a resignation during this time not only shows the lack of technical support for the country but also shows the lack of interest in the current affairs of Pakistan. Criticism with regards to why he left his position is not in the wrong, as most people will just be curious as to why he would resign during such a significant period of negotiations with the IMF. But, more importantly, Pakistan has seen no specific changes in the economic situation since the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) came into power. Coupled with the fact that the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) didn’t leave the Pakistani economy on a high note, the economy is in a condition that it has never been in before.

PTI loyalists would argue that Asad Umar did everything in his power to try and achieve a condition that is suitable for the country, while people who oppose PTI would highlight the incompetence of the former Finance Minister. Although what the loyalists say might be true, the opposers may actually have facts to present their case better. For those stuck in the middle, they are most likely to incline towards the opposers at this stage.

With that being said, Asad Umar huffed and puffed more than actually doing. There are 203 million people in Pakistan and the illiteracy rate is 40%; but who are we kidding, it’s probably more as literacy is judged by an individual just being able to write their own name. So therefore if we analyze the situation realistically, the majority of the population is uneducated (let’s say around 110 million) and they cannot possibly begin to understand concepts related to fiscal changes, monetary policies, two-year projections, and IMF loans. Sadly, what they do understand is how expensive necessities become, how expensive electricity and gas has become and how expensive fuel has become. Therefore, in their eyes, Asad Umar and PTI are on some very thin ice right now.

However, it does not end here. Many analysts and politicians have not attributed these turn of events to an individual failure but the failure of the government.

Asma Shirazi, for example tweeted the following:

 Mosharraf Zaidi had this to say:

This, however, begs the question: if Asad Umar was the beacon of hope that had been promised to Pakistan from day one of the PTI campaign, then why was his resignation accepted by the Prime Minister? Was it because they did not see eye-to-eye? Was it because Asad Umar disagreed with the plans Imran Khan had proposed? No one knows but the story doesn’t stray too far from this.

Regardless, Pakistan is in grave danger of going too far down the rabbit hole in regards to the economy. Whatever decisions have been taken by the PM and Asad Umar, up until now, whether fruitful or not, should be considered and studied carefully in order to make changes for the better in the future. It is always easy to blame the system and those who control it without being aware of the inner workings, but this time when the awareness is present, the government needs to answer for the promises it fails to keep.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *