By Wali Zahid
2017 is going to be the best-ever year (yet) in country’s 70th birth year.
Many of the legacy issues – civ-mil power struggles, lawlessness, domestic terrorism, world’s view of us, relations with eastern and western neighbours, political fragility, uber-destructive role of opposition, economic pessimism – are likely to be addressed in one way or the other, and in the right direction.
Yet, there are issues which are likely to continue to be on the backburner – dealing firmly with nonstate actors particularly in Balochistan, transparent governance, skilled handling of domestic crises, public-sector efficiency, taking advantage of regional economic opportunity with speed, and reforming institutions – civil service, police and judiciary. Much because this year leads to 2018 election year and the government may be shy of taking tough decisions.
Because of this lack of national capacity, the unprecedented opportunities that will present themselves before us may not be fully taken advantage of. The result could be underachievement.
If there’s one thing that the government can do – and must do – is to learn from our CPEC investor, China: working and improvising in real time, at the speed of life, and thinking of scale in everything you do.
Here’s what social scientists at walizahid.com think 2017 has in store for Pakistan:
- GDP growth: Although GDP growth forecasts by IMF, World Bank and federal budget vary, Pakistan’s GDP is likely to grow by 4.7 percent this year
- GDP: The annual GDP may increase from $270 billion in June 2016 to around $300 billion by December 2017. For the first time, the GDP PPP (purchasing power parity) may cross the $1-trillion mark. Pakistan is currently 40th largest economy in the world. Our ranking may improve by a point or two
- Stock Market: Pakistan will enter MSCI Emerging Markets category in May, meaning larger amounts will inflow. In 2016, PSX provided 46 percent returns
- KSE-100 benchmark index is likely to cross 55,000 points from current nearly 48,000 points
- 40 percent stakes in PSX will go to Chinese consortium. This is likely to bring large institutional investors from other countries
- Retail: More large shopping malls will be built or become operational across major urban centres. Superstore chains will open new stores in unprecedented three-digit numbers
- Debt: National debt, currently at $73 billion, will continue to grow
- Debt-to-GDP ratio: Currently at 64.8 percent, it may decline slightly
- Foreign exchange reserves will continue to be in the region of $23-24 billion
- Tax filers: Number of active tax payers/filers may reach 1.2 million
- Exports: Although IT exports are picking up, Pakistani exports will continue its declining trend, mostly because of poor cotton production, our low global competitiveness and travel advisories
- Exim Bank: Export Import (Exim) bank may be functional before June to facilitate exporters and importers after SBP licenses it
- FDI: FDI (foreign direct investment) this year may cross $1-billion mark. Compared with India’s $1.2 billion every week
- Remittances: After a drop in 2016, remittances may pick up to $20-billion mark
- Inflation: It may remain stable between 4 percent and 5 percent as low oil prices are expected to remain stable
- Agriculture: Agriculture sector will continue to remain affected because of declining cotton production
- Finance: Financial sector will increase focus on financial inclusion, generating opportunities for micro-finance and commercial banks
- Banking: Smart banking, mobile banking and branchless banking will increase
- Ease of Doing Business: Pakistan – at 144 out of 190 countries – was among top 10 global improvers in World Bank’s 2017 Doing Business (DB) rankings. In the 2018 DB ranking, it will improve further
- Automative: Pakistan may need additional 100,000 trucks to meet the CPEC-related material and freight transport needs and it is unlikely that this demand is planned and met in time. Demand for locally manufactured new and imported used cars will continue to rise. Although there’s interest from South Korea’s Hyundai and Kia, France’s Renault, Germany’s Audi and Volkswagen, and Japan’s Nissan for manufacturing plants in Pakistan, the production will not start this year. Which also means prices of cars will not come down as current producers – Toyota, Honda and Suzuki – remain in monopolistic situation
- K-Electric: Shanghai Electric buys 66.4 percent shares of K-Electric in a deal worth Rs 180 billion. It will mean improved generation, transmission and customer service, and may result in tariff reduction for electricity consumers. The takeover is likely by February after regulator approval
- Civic services: Garbage collection in Karachi will be taken over by Chinese – initially in three districts, later extending to all regulated parts of Karachi
For some long-term bets, see this: Back to the future: Pakistan in 2050
The above part (1) of this post appeared in the widely-circulated Express Tribune on 17 January 2017. ET is an affiliate publication of New York Times.
Pakistan’s BOL TV took Wali Zahid live in its morning show, Bol Live with Usama Ghazi and Dr Maria Zulfiqar. Video clip here.
The bright side of Pakistan economy
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Pakistan GDP set to grow by 5.3% by 2020: IMF
World Bank projects 5.4% growth for Pakistan in 2018
$10B TAPI natural gas pipeline to be operational in 2020
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Pakistan petrol prices 18th lowest in the world
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It’s the economy, stupid
- Most motorways and highways – with or without link to CPEC – will start taking shape, with projects in various stages of development or upgradation.
- These include: Khuzdar-Basima Highway (N-30), D. I. Khan-Quetta Highway (N-50), Gwadar Eastbay Expressway I and II, KKH II (Havelian-Thakot), KKH III (Raikot-Thakot), D. I. Khan-Quetta Highway (N-50), and Karachi-Lahore Motorway (Sukkur-Multan)
- Work on upgrading and dualisation of Main Line (ML-1) railway track will start with Chinese and ADB loans worth $8.2 billion for higher-speed train travel both for cargo and passenger traffic.
- To be completed by 2020, a gate-free and signal-free 1,872km railway track from Karachi to Peshawar (ML-1) will be made where speed on main line will increase from current 105km per hour to 160km per hour
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Transport & travel
- In addition to existing Metro BRT services in Lahore and Rawalpindi-Islamabad, new BRT service in Multan will be launched this spring
- Lahore’s Orange Line Metro Train MRT project, currently delayed by a Supreme Court verdict, will start to take shape by year-end
- Karachi’s Green Line with federal grant will near completion by end of 2017
- Yellow Line in Karachi – a Sindh government project with Chinese loans – may get a groundbreaking in 2017
- New mass transit railway services for all provincial capitals and Metro BRT for Peshawar under CPEC will kick off as well
- Karachi Circular Railways (KCR) may see some progress after inclusion in CPEC
- New Islamabad International Airport will be inaugurated on 14 August. It will start domestic passenger flights much before followed by international flights from August-onwards. It will open up aviation sector to new opportunities
- Expansion of Quetta, Peshawar and Faisalabad airports will be complete by this year
- Expansion of Lahore airport will kick off
- New aviation players – including Sial (Sialkot Air) and Serene Air with Chinese investment – will enter Pakistan, both for cargo and passenger traffic, which is likely to surpass IATA and ICAO’s around 10% growth forecasts for 2017
Pakistan’s travel infrastructure
Mass-transit transport in urban Pakistan starting to get a facelift
Take a Metro bus from Pindi to Islamabad and pay 20¢
Multan gets its Metro bus service
Lahore awaits its Orange Line Metro Train
e-ticketing on Green Line train from Islamabad to Karachi
Karachi to get Green Line bus service by end-2017
Karachi may have Yellow Line bus service in 2 years
- Most of 40 early-harvest CPEC projects in power will be near completion and generate nearly 3,000 MW’s to national grid
- CPEC power projects include: Hubco Coal Power Plant, Gwadar Power Plant, Gwadar-Nawabshah LNG Terminal and Pipeline, Suki Kinari Hydropower Project, Matiari-Lahore Transmission Line, Matiari-Faisalabad Transmission Line, Port Qasim Power Plant, Engro Thar Power Plant & Surface Mine in Block II of Thar Coal Field, Thar Coal Block I & Mine Mouth Power Plant, Gwadar-Nawabshah LNG Terminal & Pipeline, Sahiwal Coal-Fired Power Plant, Rahimyar Khan Coal Power Plant and Karot Hydro-Power Plant
- Optical Fiber Cable from Rawapindi to Khunjrab will be up by December
- Nine industrial zones – one from each federating unit, plus two by federal government – will be added to CPEC projects along with Karachi Circular Railways and Keti Bandar sea port
- It is unlikely that the Pakistan government or private sector will be able to assess the opportunities CPEC will present, make a cost-benefit analysis and create a strategic plan up to cater to CPEC-led growth by 2030 this year
- Gwadar will see provision of fresh drinking water and development of Gwadar Free Zone (GFZ)
- Gwadar is set to become a Smart Port City under a CPEC master plan
- Gwadar Port, later supported by a Multi-Purpose Terminal, will become operational for transit trade from China’s western provinces aimed for Middle East and Africa
- Pakistan’s largest airport in waiting – Gwadar International – will get a go-ahead for fast-speed construction
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- By this year’s Ramadan, new 3,067 MWs is expected to be added to national grid through Patrind, Sahiwal, Bhikki and Haveli Bahadur Shah power projects
- By December 2017, additional new 1,840 MWs is expected to be added through Port Qasim and Balloki power projects. Total new MW’s by end-2017: 4,907
- A smaller contribution to national grid will come from wind and solar energy plants. Some of the related CPEC projects include: Dawood Wind Farm, Jhimpir Wind Farm, Sachal Wind Farm, China-Sunec Wind Farm and Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park (QASP) in Bahawalpur
- QASP, on completion due this year with 1,000 MWs, will become the largest solar project in the world. At its current capacity of 400 MWs, it is already the seventh largest.
- With under-construction energy projects likely to get completed on time, total annual power generation will almost double by Jun 2018. Average annual power generation was ~13,000 MW in 2013 and will be around ~23,000 MW by 2018.
- PM Nawaz Sharif will consolidate his power and influence in 2017 and most of his policies will aim at winning the 2018 general elections. He’s slated to become an unprecedented fourth-time prime minister by forming a majority PMLN government by fall of 2018
- PPP’s leaders Asif Ali Zardari, country’s former President, and his 28-year-old son Bilawal Bhutto will enter parliament through by-election to two National Assembly seats vacated by relatives and close associates. The current Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah is likely to be inspired by Punjab CM Shehbaz Sharif and may leave footprint by cleaning up some of the mess Sindh province is in
- PTI’s Imran Khan will marginalise himself and see himself on a path to obscurity in time for 2018 elections
- 2017 will see rise of Maryam Nawaz Sharif
Related: Maryam Sharif: Pakistan’s next political star?: BBC
Civil-military balance of power
- PM Sharif will try to regain the space lost to army during former army chief General Raheel Sharif’s tenure after August 2014 PTI dharna and APS Peshawar school terror attack in December 2014
- There will be a negotiated space for normalisation of relations with neighbours India and Afghanistan so the regional trade is eased
- Ties with India may start to normalise with onset of spring. Intermittent shelling across LoC may continue to occur but won’t result into escalation of high-intensity conflict
- Under Chinese push for regional, multi-country trade, Pakistan will open to normalisation of ties with India
- It may not be too far when India is brought into CPEC project, an aim China wishes to see earlier than later
- Ties with Kabul may see an improvement after deterioration over the past few years
- Trust between civilian governments of the two countries may start to repair, with military backing the multi-stakeholder peace process
- TAPI natural gas pipeline may get a nod by all stakeholders – the government in Kabul, Taliban and independent warlords – for safety of pipeline route and construction work, although delays expected
- US engagement with Pakistan will reduce further after strained ties over these recent years. Washington may no longer be interested in the Pak part from the American ‘AfPak’ Strategy
- It’s too early to say how President Donald Trump will shape his stance towards Pakistan. In pre-election Twitter diplomacy, Trump showed antagonistic attitude towards Pakistan, but during the days of President-Elect, his call with PM Sharif was quite amiable with Trump willing to play a role for all outstanding issues. Many in India read this as: Kashmir issue
- Strategic cooperation partnership with China will see new heights
- Pakistan’s CPEC is a pilot corridor in China’s 2013 six-corridor $1 trillion OBOR (one-belt-one-road) Initiative. With early-harvest phase taking shape by end of 2017, the CPEC may bring other countries including India on board
- Pakistan will become full member of China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in June 2017, along with India
Pakistan’s relations with Russia will improve and see new engagement, thanks to China and SCO membership where Russia plays a key role along side China
- IP Gas: After Iran agrees to negotiate amendment in GSPA (Gas Sale Purchase Agreement), Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project may move at a slow pace. Bilateral trade with Iran may pick up after Western sanctions have been lifted
- Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Iran is likely by year-end
- Power struggles for Karachi’s political and financial space may continue, although with lesser force and much less overt powerplay. MQM is a likely winner for Karachi and Hyderabad’s National Assembly seats in the 2018 general elections
- PSP’s Mustafa Kamal may find little relevance in future reconfiguration
- Peace is likely to prevail generally, with occasional violence and target killings to achieve short-term objectives
- Street crimes – mugging and mobile snatching – may continue at current levels unless political attention is paid to this aspect of governance
- With development of road infrastructure and job creation in CPEC projects, separatist nationalist sentiment in Balochistan is likely to decrease
- With transit goods trade from Gwadar, Balochistan will open up doors to the rest of Pakistan
- Militant religious groups – currently a major force in Balochistan – may continue to roam free, strike soft targets and result in civilian casualties unless Islamabad goes after an assault on them
- Since 2013, terrorism in Pakistan with resultant civilian casualties has been on a declining trend – down by three quarters.
- Currently we are fifth most affected country in the world
- In 2016, violence-related deaths reduced by over one-third. There were a total of 4,324 casualties in 2016, compared to 6,572 in 2015, with Karachi and Punjab improving and Quetta in Balochistan and Peshawar in KPK seeing a a mild increase
- 2017 terrorism index will see much improved situation with terror attacks decreasing
- Homegrown militant groups are likely to be mainstreamed under National Action Plan, but it is unlikely they will lose their writ particularly in Balochistan
The above part (2) of this post appeared in the widely-circulated Express Tribune on 19 January 2017. ET is an affiliate publication of New York Times.
Society & culture
- Pakistan’s sixth housing and population census will be held in March. Although there may be surprises in the population of Karachi and Balochistan, this may not affect the constituency delimitation for 2018 general elections
- Pakistan’s first free public wifi will be rolled out in three Punjab cities – Multan, Rawalpindi and Lahore. Nearly 200 free wifi spots will be available at public places. The service is likely to be extended to other Punjab cities
- Higher Education Commission (HEC) may set up new universities in 10 disadvantaged districts to serve local population willing to pursue higher education degrees
- Day-to-day public-sector corruption is likely to persist although our current ranking in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index will improve from current 117
- Laws against sexual harassment of women and honour killings may result in some decrease in these crimes
- Women in Punjab will be able to access instant police help by pressing a button on a mobile safety app
- As forecasted by the World Bank, extreme poverty will decline further
- Unemployment may increase to 6 percent in spite of creation of 700,000 CPEC-related jobs because of large number of youth coming into employable-age net
- Women, youth, children, elderly and persons with disabilities will continue to be the most affected by disasters and least included in disaster risk reduction measures in 2017
- Northern Areas will remain at risk of glacier lake outburst floods and given the annual rise in temperatures are likely to face medium to high risk
- Direct-to-home (DTH) subscriptions will roll out in spite of the DTH auction overturn by Lahore High Court
- PEMRA campaign against illegal Indian DTH will intensify
- A code of conduct for national TV channels will be implemented in various thrusts
- Geo TV’s owner MSR winning nearly Rs 24 million in damages against ARY in a UK court, combined with a fine of 3 million pounds on ARY for court fees will be a message for Pakistani TV channels to air content responsibly and avoid libel, particularly in overseas broadcasts, but also in-country
- Most TV channels are likely to continue with politician-bashing news and current affairs shows throughout the year
- Pakistan’s new cyber law is likely to contain widespread mudslinging on politicians and opposition leaders through electronic and social media, particularly Whatsapp
Violent crimes in all parts of Pakistan reduced by two-thirds or by three quarters in some parts in 2016, notably in Punjab and Karachi. The trend is likely to continue
- Punjab is likely to roll out a Singaporean-Turkish model of healthcare using technology
- PM health insurance program with 50 hospitals onboard will kick off
Draft 0 | 29.12.2016
What are your views?
The above forecasts are short-term bets on Pakistan’s growth and smooth ride into the future. What are your views? Will your bets be different? Please make a comment below.
In December 2017, we can exchange notes on how far did we forecast correctly.
Most of the above forecasts are taken from posts published on walizahid.com. In addition, several analysts and thinkers contributed specifically to this yearly forecast. We are grateful for their contributions. Their names here in alphabetical order:
Aam Achar | Lahore | Social sector facilitator, educationist, researcher, entrepreneur, micro-blogger | @
Abid Rehman | Bahrain | IT security professional remained associated with global engineering design firm working on landmark projects like Burj Khalifa and under-construction Jeddah Tower
Absar Alam | Islamabad | Chairman, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), GoP
Dr Adil Najam | Boston, Massachusetts, USA | Dean, Pardee School of Global Studies, Boston University. Professor of International Relations, Earth & Environment. Formerly Vice Chancellor, LUMS | @
Aftab Gilani | Islamabad | Chief Coordinator, Aviation Division, GoP | @
Ali Zahid | Dubai, UAE | Mobil app developer, speaker, minimalist, gamer. Founder, designplox.com | @
Anjum Raheel | Islamabad | An accomplished IT professional with keen interest in Pakistani politics | @
Dr Ayesha Khurram | Rawalpindi | Administrator, FFBL Institute of Executive Leadership and Development, governance specialist and academic
Fizza Saeed | Karachi | HR & OP professional at National Clearing Company of Pakistan Limited/Pakistan Stock Exchange Limited | @
Javaid Nisar Syed | Lahore | PAS. Formerly Director-General Civil Service Academy, GoP and Founder, Medibank Trust
Javed Iqbal | Karachi | Diversified 34+ years commercial banking experience with national and foreign banks in Pakistan and overseas, most recently CEO of Sindh Modaraba
Majyd Aziz | Karachi |President, Employers’ Federation of Pakistan and former President, Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry | @
Dr Minhaj Qidwai | Karachi | Head, Health Management Program, IBA Karachi | A health management consultant from Canada with three decades+ of international experience
Mir Muhammad Ali | Karachi | Entrepreneur, investment professional, golfer, news junkie, early riser, passionate about sports and nature. Formerly CEO, UBL Fund Managers | @
Moetesum Khurshid | Islamabad | Executive Director, Royal Airport Services Pakistan. A pilot, passionate about growing aviation industry | @
Mona Alam | Karachi | Engineer by academics-turned-anchorperson with PTV News, presenting Economy In Focus live show | @
Mosharraf Zaidi | Islamabad | Working on the Alif Ailaan campaign for education in Pakistan. WEF Young Global Leader 2014. TFF Disruptive Fellow, columnist for The News | @
Dr Muhammad Ramzan | Lahore | CEO Fair Information, expert academic quality assurance and library consultant. Served 17+ years @ LUMS, now Director @ ITU | @
Musa Khan Durrani | Islamabad | Investment professional engaged in a buy-side advisory role. Interested in politics, economics and energy | @
Musadaq Zulqarnain | Faisalabad | CEO, Interloop, Pakistan & member, boards of its subsidiaries in USA, Netherlands and Bangladesh. Engineer by profession | @
Norbert Almeida | Karachi | A safety and security advisor who tweets about security issues | @
Saleem Ranjha | Islamabad | Customs Group, Formerly Federal Secretary, BISP. Director, Akhuwat | @
Salman Masood | Islamabad | Resident Editor, The Nation and Pakistan Correspondent, The New York Times | @
Sami Rafi Siddiqui | Islamabad | An HR professional with 30+ years experience. Executive Director, Private Power and Infrastructure Board, GoP | @
Shahbaz Syed | Ottawa | Export Development Canada | Formerly head of Medium Term Operations at ICIEC, Islamic Development Bank, Saudi Arabia | @
Tahir Imran Mian | Islamabad | Social Media Editor, BBC Urdu | A journalist who likes to tell stories that sometime nobody considers worth telling specially from the world of social media | @
Wali Zahid is a futurist, disruptor, blogger, social media strategist, reformer, LinkedIn writer and author of iBook, Great Training in 10 Steps.
He recently won Agahi Journalist of the Year 2016 Award. He has also been featured on BBC Urdu‘s Who to Follow on Social Media.
He runs a #Pakistan2050 hashtag on Twitter and appears on national TV on issues of significance to Pakistan.
On walizahid.com, he’s writing a series called How We Messed Up Pakistan.
As CEO of SkillCity, he coaches several Fortune-500 CEOs on leadership.
Formerly editor of The News, he’s founder of a global movement for humanizing medical education and practice.
He can be reached on Twitter @walizahid
Do not miss our Understanding Pakistan Series
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