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Economic effects of elections

There is a flutter of activities now that elections are upon us. I have been a bit dismayed at elections not because this election may not be fair (it never is for the loser), nor because the event was done in a manner that wasted little time. My concern is that the election process has an economic activity that needs to be understood.

The banners bring joy to the ordinary person because it lifts the mood of the nation and the participants. Name one party whose banner is dull and morose? All are with bright color and all adorn the sky. My thoughts also go to those workers that have spent such a long-time preparing the slogans that one finds on the posters and the hefty amount that the TV channels must have made with the advertisement that evoke memories of days gone by. The actions and the inactions of the country that was made to improve the conditions of the people of this country.

But above all the passion of some that they can cross the country at will and speak their hearts and their thoughts to the people. Some may disagree with the statements while others may agree. The system will cleanse itself. There were and there will be shocking instances of violence but then we are all violence prone. Karachi is in panic. Why? Any diagnosis of the situation before the prescription is applied or should we think that we can take care of everything in life merely by living by the sword? Send in the mufti and that will take care of terminal diseases. That is not how nations are made. Conflict resolution in a society is a multi functional aspect and needs careful assessment before jumping to conclusions.

More mow on the positive side. Do we need any institution to control the monetary gains that have been made by politicians? Can the elected members be contained? The recent elections will be an eye opener simply because those that have enough money will try to have access to voters on two counts-cronyism and money allocations. Both are likely to fail. The reason is that the TV channels and the media – for whatever reason may be attributed to them – have played a part in raising awareness. They are everywhere. The print media is not and they have shied away from sending their correspondents to far-flung areas. They will have to do it better. Their forte seems to be to highlight scandals. Well they should keep an inventory of all the scandals that politicians get tied up in and make them available to the voting public.

The conveying of information is a major working zone for the media be it electronic or print. That they need to have specialists that can work on this, is something that requires extra work and the work of certain American journalists is worth remembering. They have made it an art to comment on political behaviour and political actions. They have on occasions made parties change their political stand. We are still a long way off from that and yet we have to be part of the system that develops and keeps on developing in a dynamic way that aspect of democracy. Forget for a change the language of politics that seems to move the world. That language is of minimal strength to us.

The most effective aspect of our elections is that the poor stand to gain in various ways. There nourishment is better off these days as they are feted by the candidates. So the malnourishment at least for the critical period takes a back seat. You try looking for a driver these days and you will not find one and if you do the salary demand is exorbitant. And why not? Have economists not said that supply and demand must determine the wages and salaries of skilled workers. That labour is part and parcel of the market system. The market is of drivers and it is sellers market. Anyone with a dilapidated car is taking 30,000 to 35,000 rupees as one month rental for taking the advertising of the candidate to the voting public (fuel is provided by the candidate). How can the candidates afford this? Is it because they have sold some of their landed property? This used to be the excuse of some. Now one understands why development money was passed onto them. I managed to have a look at the assets of the last elected politicians. They make an interesting study. It seems that those that had inherited say 1.5 lakhs of rupees are now floating in crores-the prize bonds alone are about 3 crores of rupees with one single individual my friend!! Prize bonds my friends are for whitening black money. You can buy as much as you have earned anyway which way and there are no questions asked. The election commission having asked for these asset statements did not analyse them. Now that the new lot is coming, I hope that these will be analysed or one should give up these pretenses to honesty and live with our lies. There are some that have used their development allocations to fulfil the aspirations of their constituency. But these are few and far between.

The students that I met and who had been awarded lap tops were full of praise for the politicians and when I asked them who was responsible for such an excellent gift, they seemed to have a memory lapse. So close to the lections does this not mean some kind of clever ploy to get the voters to change their minds through considerations other than verbal convincing. But that does not matter for the politicians have everything to lose and nothing to win.

This brings me to the real issue as to how the canvassing time has been shortened for this election. Election canvassing time should have been at least three months. The reasons are two. Firstly the caretaker government would have sufficient time to mess it all up and the egos of some would have been satisfied for the flirtation with political governance. Secondly this time enhancement would allow a genuine flow of income distribution for the poor would – for the first time – have a feudal feeling that they are getting something for nothing. Even the poorest of the poor have the right to feudal earnings-getting something without actually working.

I have not estimated the cost per day to the vote seekers but I suspect that the world of the beneficiaries has worked for the first time. Elections and this is the third or corollary to the second point that elections should be more frequent. The more frequent these are the more the income generation for the poor. Imagine the colour and the benefits to the textile industry and their issues that there is loadshedding and therefore exports will suffer. The local demand for grey cloth covered all that. Those that had to indigenously colour this cloth have again gained in terms of income.

Since all the workers have to eat so caterers have gained. No one will go for the best caterer so they went for the locals and the advantage of that is that all the eatable sellers have made a kill.

So please consider this seriously as an economic boom for the poor. The economics of election year are at least something to look forward too. Some of the cynics would also have pointed out the benefits to the caretakers of graveyards (not the politician silly) but that is stretching it too far. Caretaker to caretaker is taking it too far. On a serious note should we allow such an aspect to be in our elections? The answer may well lie in having more elections in quick succession. Will these quick elections up their ante? That does not matter because the ante will lose out in as quick a succession. The politicians will howl but that is their characteristic. So why worry. Since economic policies do not work maybe political economy Pakistani style will work out.

Dr. Zafar Altaf, "Economic effects of elections," Business recorder. 2013-05-04.
Keywords: Economic issues , Economic crisis , Political issues , Political system , National issues , Economy-Pakistan , Politicians , Elections , Pakistan