Tuesday, December 6, 2011

New Year’s Resolutions for Pakistan

Three days ago, I attended a seminar on “New Year’s Resolutions for Pakistan’s Economy” at IBA and the speakers appeared to fracture into two schools of thought. 

The first school of thought, led by Saad Khan (Vice President, American Business Council) argued that Pakistan needs to develop a long term “vision” for economic uplift. The second school of thought, led by Ishrat Husain (Former State Bank Governor) argued that Pakistan already has many “visions” parading around as white papers in the system, what Pakistan needs is implementation, implementation & implementation. 

All of us like to make New Year’s resolutions. Some want to lose weight, others want to quit smoking. Almost everyone wants to fight their demons and become a better person. The New Year is a chance to get a fresh start on life. Despite the fact that most of us fail to live up to our resolutions, we never fail to make new resolutions. 

Pakistan is no different.

Imran Khan & the 2013 elections promise a “fresh start” for Pakistan. Imran Khan has a bold vision that almost everyone can buy into; he promises to end corruption and offers that as a panacea to solve all our problems. 

The question most of PTI’s critics have is a simple one: does Imran Khan have the discipline and the political muscle to implement his vision or is this another New Year’s resolution that looks good on paper but will never be brought to life?

How do we resolve the tension between developing a vision and having the discipline to execute it? If you don’t execute your vision, does it mean that you didn’t believe in it in the first place? And if that’s true, why do we develop visions to begin with?

Specifically for Pakistan’s case, why are politicians so big on “visions” and short on precise plans to achieve those “visions”?

The answer is simple. “Visions” are meant to inspire and bring out the best in us. Plans on the other hand are cumbersome and require hard work to be executed. Politicians, like us on the cusp of a New Year, like to believe that we can bring out the best in us without working on the discipline needed to achieve our goals. 

Based on the seminar and the subsequent unpacking of ideas for this blog post, I’d propose the following to be Pakistan’s New Year’s Resolutions:
  1. Developing a clear vision for our future that inspires all sections of society – Imran Khan trying his best to do a good job here
  2.  Creating a plan of action that charts the specific steps needed for success – No one is doing this, yet.
  3.  The discipline to execute plans & make sacrifices – this needs to be part of all our New Year’s resolutions.
I’ll end with this beautiful quote that puts the tension between vision & execution into context:

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.”
Henry David Thoreau

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