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Economic and social sums do not add up

The dos and donts of economics have to be understood before unilateral decisions are taken. Increasingly, the perfunctory nature of the decisions are coming out in the economy. The USA got its independence from the colonial powers on the basis of the Boston Tea Party. The cry from the inhabitants was ‘no taxation without representation’. In Pakistan that will not matter. We are a crude nation and our vulgarity shows in our actions. In fact as one of the cricketing characters used to say ‘vulgarity itself is put to shame in front of your behaviour’. So it is with our politicians.

The recent episode of putting 150 of their names on the probe list the NAB thinks it has done its job. No it has not done the job for this is a running sore and has to be treated after due diagnosis and then a prescription will have to be added. The plea bargain aspect is borrowed from the USA and there this is an ongoing aspect. They rule us in more than one ways. The majesty of independence is not there. Where have we failed in policies given by our policymakers? Planning is outsourced to MaCkinsey, a favourite of our planning minister. The engineers are having a field day. The recent episode of a signal-free zone is meaningless; whether you have one lane, two or three or four lanes. Since traffic flows would be uninterrupted they can simply go through without any hindrance. No matter how many lanes we may have if our traffic is policed by the police then the elements will not help us. The recent happening in the rural areas which was brought to my notice explains how police ‘muqabalas’ are organised. At nine o’clock at night a naka party entered a house in Sahiwal that had only children and female occupants. One of the children threw a stone at the police party and he had a minor scratch of one cm or so. The police did not have a search warrant under section 100 of CrPc and neither had they any witnesses to the entry. If a matter is of urgency the law provides that the police has to have two witnesses to the search. The search was not the option but the action was oriented by enemies. Senior police officers were informed of the act. They intervened but the police had an alibi and they said one of the police officers’ head was smashed. The one centimeter injury was called a head buster. The English dictionary has to be rewritten.

The attitude of the police will never be modified. Nawaz Sharif has forgotten as also his dear brother what happened to them when Musharraf was in power. But the details of these actions can wait. For today these illustrations are only for the purpose of indicating what is going wrong with the country’s politicians. The King Canute’s actions will be a burden on the country and its people. The signal-free will mean chopping 300+ trees and many more bushes besides cutting through the landscaped road that is the Islamabad Expressway. Why is he so interested in Rawat? Susar bari thakey ukhaney [Bengali for father-in-law’s house is at Rawat] as a Bengali would ask. Why Rawat? To check up I rang up some junior Revenue officers. They told me that all mutations have been stopped in this mauza by orders from above. ‘Above’ in my parlance rally means the Almighty. But then half-gods have also entered the domain where angels fear to tread. They talk of climate change and Karachi and the same thing happened there. Tree canopies are necessary to cool the roads on which one travels. They reduce the temperature. When two or three things add up they end up as deaths in Karachi. But who is to tell the ego-centric politicians. They have two ears but they are blind in the ears and they are deaf in the eyes – assuming that they have specially deigned organs. They neither see with their ears nor hear anything. Special mute children they are.

The FBR and the FM have announced serious tax reforms. These are all indirect taxes. Do they understand the import of indirect tax vis-a-vis direct taxes? Has there been any study on the outcome of the two or do they rely on the WB and IMF? The Statistics Division is part of the Finance Ministry and therefore under the direct import of the FM. He can have these surveys done. They maybe indicative surveys but who is to tell them what an indicative survey is and how the random portfolio is?

What are the solutions to get rid of the doings of the government in power? The argument about which form is better is now a barren one. Should one go to the market mechanism but that is only relevant to the commercial aspects. We have yet to learn how to give a unique function to intangibles and that means that we cannot fix targets for the bureaucrats. What is the interaction between commercial and government policies? Try commodities sector and in fact read into the sugar industry scandals or the APTMA [textiles] or the ghee industry? Now the industry wants that government should buy all the sugar. Why not since all these jokers have a hand in the pie. So with a cartel asking the government to buy the entire lot is something unheard of in economic parlance. As I have said many times for the cotton and sugar industry the less government involvement that is in their actions the better off will be the government.

To all policy regulations and its implementations there is a serious social implication. The sociological aspects of economic regulations have a distinct impact on the poverty and governance issues that this country is facing. Matters will not improve if drastic steps are not taken. There is no one to take drastic steps and it seems that the postings of inefficient personnel are done to make sure that this country goes to the devil. The demise of the USSR has been due to this. When inefficient persons are posted to these visionary postings then the cognitive ability is missing. Concepts and cognitive abilities are required if the personnel management has to go forward. In the modern world unless the modern views are not incorporated we will remain the underlings of this world.

So think of distributed leadership and do not interfere with it. Do not think of decentralisation but think of subsidiarity management concepts that allow for targets to be set with timelines. In fact the role of the government is to carry out a management audit at the end of the time period. If the personnel are found wanting they are shown the door. The moral is that since they were to set their own targets and determine the where withal the output results should have been forthcoming. Devolution that we have after the 18th Amendment is farcical. The book by Dr Basit has given the details. The Council of Common Interest has given an executive order that is all. There is no legislation per se. The then cabinet secretary that implements these decisions should be hauled up for miscarriage of information and disinformation.

We are all perfunctory people. The political system does not believe in reading; the bureaucracy has no need and the anchors are no better. All of them are situational people because situations do not require any reading. And so it goes on. Lip service and that is all. In fact all those that do not have a mind of their own are far better off. Food security be damned; my security is all I am concerned with. In the bureaucracy we have hit the pits of the world. And it is getting murkier and smelly by the day. The cure lies in determining horses for courses. It is neither specialists nor generalists that will deliver for we require a new vision of humane managers not administrators to organise the nation and weld it together. Renaissance is not going to come because there are very few that live with their minds. And the tragedy is that Pakistanis have to live this country.

Zafar Altaf, "Economic and social sums do not add up," Business recorder. 2015-07-18.
Keywords: Economics , Economic issues , Colonial powers , Economic development , Immigration policy , Political parties , Foreign investment , Economic survey , Government-Pakistan , Economical aspects , Government policies , Economic regulations , Gen Mushraf , Karachi , USA , Pakistan , NAB , FBR , FM , IMF , WB , APTMA