Is This The Crisis We Were Looking For?
As I mentioned in Staying Home for 14 Days — COVID 19, that one of my goal was to read Upheaval by Jared Diamond (I will address the author of the book as JD in this article). Thankfully, I did start reading the book and currently I am nearly half way through. (Update: I have completed the book)
In the book, JD starts off by narrating two stories from his own life, in order to define the term crisis (a time of intense difficulty or danger).The word crisis is derived from the “Greek noun“krisis” & verb “krino” which have several related meanings: “to decide”, “to draw a distinction” and “turning point” ”. The idea to share personal experience in the form of two stories was to set a base to draw parallels between crisis on individual and national level. The key points which JD extracted from after he resolved his personal crisis are stated below:
And the same points could be reinterpreted/relabelled for a nation in crisis. The author describes the stories of 6 countries (Finland, Chile, Germany, Japan, Indonesia and Australia) that how they ended up resolving their national crisis; may be not completely in the case of Chile & Indonesia.
For the sake of this article I am going to write crisis and opportunity almost synonymously as many great personalities like Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King and JFK have shared similar thoughts. Crisis in Chinese is Wéijī, “Wéi” meaning Danger & “jī” meaning Opportunity. So what’s the idea here? Where am I taking you with all this information?
As I was reading the book, I was unable to not to think about Pakistan, our history and our time to time “crisis situations”. I personally think that, an excellent read to understand Pakistan would be Pakistan Beyond the ‘Crisis State’. And so I embarked on the journey to see if COVID-19 is really the crisis/opportunity Pakistan needs to improve herself, which is long due.
The idea here is to present a possible way out for Pakistan in the light of the factors mentioned by JD.
For Pakistan to really take advantage of the current global situation, we need to run a loop to cover factors 7, 1, 2 and 3; from there on we move to factor 10. This would only happen if we have our two bases (factor 6 and 11) covered, which gets hit from time to time because of our inherent confusion regarding our identity.
Keeping in view, factor 5, Pakistan could definitely learn from Japan, as to how Japan, being a strong adherent to cultural and traditional norms and taboos, specified factor 3 & 10. Japan successfully built a fence around their issues, developed a consensus of what the problem was and took responsibility to eradicate their shortcomings. Upgraded their education system and life styles and thus gained the respect and stature of being a civilised country from other nations.
Factor 12 is where we really lack and suffer. Being part of a neighbourhood which has been actively contributing to the news papers for all the wrong reasons, its difficult to say that Pakistan can gain freedom from its geopolitical constraints. Our neighbourhood has a lot of If and Buts attached to it. All the neighbour countries will have to come out of their superficial positive outlook and stop being involved in disturbing the regional peace. Nevertheless, we still will have to pave our way through this, may be by considering Finland’s example, that how Finland established relations with much bigger and powerful USSR.
Update: Now that China has shown interest in investing in Iran. This is could help Pakistan to get close to Iran and improve our relations.
As far as factor 4 is concerned we have been getting a lot of material and financial help rather aid from many countries, The United States of America leading the way or may be after the initiation of One Belt One Road and CPEC China must have taken the lead. I strongly believe, any foreign aid comes with terms and conditions which has its affects for better or worse. We will have to bring this to closure or devise strategies to keep Pakistan’s interest above everything while signing such financial aid deals.
Last but not the least Factor 8 and 9 has always been a major pain point as well. So far we haven’t learnt from our crisis history and are unaware of the (read it as unwilling to implement) methodologies of dealing with national failures.
Currently, some points might help us to get a hang of our crisis. For example, lower interest rates announced by State Bank of Pakistan, deferring of loan and interest on loans and additional loan with low interest rate, government policy to invite investments in construction industry without being asked about the source of income. Apart from this, government could has some other small opportunities if they can build on them:
- Due to COVID-19, we have got a chance to make SOPs, set guidelines and enforce safer workplace conditions.
- Online business could rethink their strategy and improve their customer service.
- Government could rethink their strategy and execution regarding public health and mass education.
- Government could collect more data regarding people living under poverty line, in order to formulate a better plan to provide them with food, shelter and jobs.
- The data of our industries collected during these days could help us take new initiatives for R&D and industry-academia collaborations. Along with other manufacturing options to achieve local production of health care products meeting global standards.
- Develop a political consensus. (I know I am asking too much here)
- Take a much broader outlook in the country’s Foreign Policy as indicated by PM’s appeal for relief to developing nations and address on World Economic Forum.
- Jungle Jobs to fight climate change and meet the target of planting 1 Billion trees.
- Using locally manufactured drones for pest control.
- Revamping PIA and Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority to abide by stringent quality and safety regulations at par with Global standards.
- This could also be an excellent time for Govt. of Pakistan to find good negotiators because we are apparently involved in many international cases.
This is what an optimist like me could think of after reading Upheaval and I also am of the opinion that COVID-19 crisis is definitely an opportunity for Pakistan. Of course this is a simplistic view of the crisis Pakistan is in, however if we want to evolve Pakistan into a country we all dream of, its important to start somewhere and the current situation is the best opportunity.