There are signs of stability on the economic front. Macroeconomic indicators are showing improvement. Exports in the July-November period of FY20, the ongoing fiscal year, have jumped 4.8 per cent while imports have fallen 19.3 per cent, thereby cutting the trade deficit by nearly 35 per cent — to $9.5 billion. Growing foreign interest in the treasury bills has also been witnessed of late, with the volume of investment jumping to $1 billion in the first five months of FY20. American credit rating agency Moody’s has also upgraded Pakistan’s credit rating outlook to stable from negative while expecting the balance of payments dynamics to improve at the back of policy adjustments and currency flexibility.
All this appears enough for stock market investors to feel good — at least for now. The benchmark KSE index has, thus, taken a good U-turn. The index rose by 1,780 points over the last week and gained another 836 points on Monday to cross the 40,000 mark after a period of nine months, closing at 40,124 points. It was on May 25, 2017 that the index had hit its peak of 53,124 points, but ever since, it kept plummeting mainly because of the political uncertainty that gripped the country in the wake of Nawaz Sharif’s removal as prime minister over corruption allegations. The erosion at the bourse continued, as even the general election in July 2018 failed to bring the political calm needed for the economy to prosper. There did come a time when in mid-August this year, the index had fallen below the 29,000 mark, hitting a four-year low. But the last three months or so have turned out to be good for the bourse during which the index has winged past the 40,000-point psychological barrier.
The stock market is not regarded as a true barometer of the economy in view of its manipulative vulnerabilities. However, it does serve as some kind of a report card on the country’s financial health and the performance of the government’s economic managers. The latest rally at the stock market deserves to be acknowledged as a sign of the revival of investors’ confidence in the government’s economic policies.
‘Death’ of dengue
Now our winter of content has set in, as far as dengue fever is concerned. The year 2019 would be remembered as the year of the dengue as this year from 8 July to 12 Nov, 47,120 cases were reported across the country. The disease claimed 75 lives. The worst affected was the Islamabad Capital Territory where from 6 Aug to 12 Nov, 12,986 cases were reported. The death toll was 22. Authorities in the ICT say the fall in temperature has killed the dengue mosquitoes bringing down incidence of the disease to zero. The anti-dengue campaign will now be limited to case-response surveillance only. Attention will be focused on prevention in the future. The campaign for the next season will start in March next. The authorities ascribed the reason for the unprecedented virulent outbreak of dengue in Islamabad to slackness by some of the government departments concerned with public health. The authorities have admitted that this year the anti-mosquito spray campaign was launched very late.
Of course, the drop in temperature has killed dengue mosquitoes in Islamabad. The temperature has fallen in winter all over the country but it cannot be said with certainty that the decrease in temperature has also resulted in wiping out mosquitoes. The state of cleanliness in cities and towns of Sindh is highly unsatisfactory. There are un-cleared garbage dumps and gutter overflows, which are good breeding grounds for mosquitoes. From 1 Sept to 12 Nov, 12,053 cases of dengue have been reported in the province. Thirty-three deaths have occurred. There is also the long-persisting problem of fake medicines. Recently, some people connected with medicine retail trade were caught filling bottles with spurious multivitamin tablets. In 2010, the then interior minister told the National Assembly that 45-50 per cent medicines being sold in Pakistan were either fake or substandard. Take solace in the saying: The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.
Pomp and Pompeo