111 510 510 libonline@riphah.edu.pk Contact

Failure of economics in rural areas

Pakistan’s rural areas hold about 70 percent of the population and all the other statistics that go with it. These are mere words and I am not going to justify or deny anything that is being done to undo the rural areas. Urbanisation gives you growth or so the economic sages tell us. These sages are from the most sophisticated universities and carry their own TV talk shows. I am surprised at the lack of awareness of the situation in Pakistan. This growth was the issue that the US was banking on and when this was discussed informally with an Oxonian the reply was ‘this will not last and will fall flat’. I asked him the reason and he said that all the money that is piling into the sector works against the economic concepts. That this money that is going in to urbanisation will ultimately lead to sub prime mortgages and the central pivot of the capitalist system is not being followed in the legal sense. Private property is always considered a central capitalist concept and there are institutions that are made for that purpose. LDA, KDA, CDA and other town-related agencies are now being misused by the powerful. The DHA schemes and the lands in cantonments were never considered by our colonial masters as land meant for making money. Now that is not the case. The mess is not as big as the one that the civilian development authorities have created but it is big enough.

There will be shortages in energy and in civic supplies like water. It was in the USSR days that I bought Dr Kornoi’s book on ‘Economics of shortages.’ That I believe is the only book of its kind. Pakistan with its population doubling in the next few years will have serious issues if the population migration from the rural areas is not contained. As chief economist government of Punjab in the early eighties with the advice of Governor Jillani we had embarked on a policy of satellite towns creation in the proximity but distant from the large towns these hamlet like townships. The policy was then subverted by the next government. What does urbanisation take away form the poor? It takes away what little resources it could get. This is the time for understanding how the metro situations are going to disturb the already lopsided budget in favour of the urbanites. Roads, bridges and ego projects in the urban areas will hit the poor harder. But this will go on. This will go on because of the asset build-up that I have seen of the politician, which I will bring to the notice of the readers in due course of time. It is a classical case of the effort to use public resources for private benefit.

When people are deprived of their rights it is a serious matter as the history of former East Pakistan reveals. It becomes well nigh indefensible when the morsel is also taken away from their mouths. The recent happenings in Karachi make no mistake have these beginnings where the participants feel that they have nothing to lose if they give their lives for certain commitments that they see as justified. I had a look at this year’s budget and it is a bloomer. There is nothing in it for the poor and the agriculturist. There is superimposition. Worse the government is accused of diverting resources from the budgetary proposals that has been voted by the Parliament. That is what the minor provinces are stating. They have a case in point. But what is worse the policymakers in the political field are now taxing the uniformed severely. The traffic wardens have been given a target that they must achieve each day. The property markets in towns are to be taxed heavily so that the cash-strapped wasters of resources have more at their disposal.

Till we change our modus operandi we will continue in this vein with everyone in power telling lies. Pakistan has a captive population but that will happen when its wrath comes into force. The power of the powerless is to be worried about. But news is now coming through of over 6,000 farmers having been arrested and charged with terrorism because they were protesting against the imports of potatoes from India. Instead of helping these farmers with productivity enhancement the government has chosen to arrest them and charge them with a crime in order to teach them a lesson. Well so be it. This is democracy Pakistan style. The minute you have at the federal and provincial-level personnel in agriculture who do not understand the implications for the sector you will have this kind of action. There is no shortcut to policies that come from the competent but these competent people are an embarrassment to the politician for these people that are competent are fiercely independent.

Are the farmers faulty in their assertions? I do not think so for the Indian farmer receives subsidy that one in Pakistan can never understand much less give to the farmers. I have seen the Pakistani farmer suffer the consequences of the policies of the federal as well as the provincial government. All of them are busy trying to cover each other’s weaknesses. One must really start worrying about commodity-led inflation, which is based on supply side economics. There is new technology available that costs less than the bullet proof cars and that produces as much as 90 tons of tomatoes per acre. Want it? Why not? Do you have the imagination to get nano technology into agriculture?

The FM has by default asserted that the poverty figures are upwards of 50 percent. That means that we are sitting on a powder keg. Any explosion can take all of us along. So the research in agriculture has to have a paradigm shift. There is no allocation for Agriculture in this budget of PML-N. Their intentions are clear and they do not mind law and order situations as they will show their iron hand on the poor farmers. Their iron hand cannot touch the real terrorists but the Okara potato growers are the ones that we will deal with and tell the Punjabi Taliban that we mean business. So what is the future of the marginal and fragile areas? Nothing. If central Punjab is undergoing this tragedy then what will happen to the Balochs, the Tharis and the Cholistanis not to speak of North and South Waziristan. They can die while Nero sleeps. The budget has given a clear indication of times to come. What our leaders do not understand is that the concepts are to be dealt with first and then the implementation. But then if you have oxymorons in policymaking in the agriculture department this is what will happen. Time to think! Meat at Rs 1,000 per kilo, milk at Rs 150 per litre and atta at Rs 100 per kilo and pulses even more. Envisage a happy and a law and order perfect Pakistan. Think. Yet we have supercilious idiots debating complex issues and playing the blame game. Karachi my heart bleeds for you. The bell will toll for all of us some day. Take care.

Dr Zafar Altaf, "Failure of economics in rural areas," Business recorder. 2014-06-14.
Keywords: Economics , Economic issues , Economic policy , Economic system , Economic development , Social issues , Rural development , Urbanization , Property , Terrorism , Pakistan