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Financial inequality breeds contempt

Our society essentially stands divided into three classes. The elite class comprises the top bureaucrats both civil and military, business tycoons and politicians. Then follow two classes – the thinning middle class and the multiplying poor class, which lives below the poverty line. Instead of receding, the poverty graph is rapidly escalating.

The politicians – in every government that comes to power by winning the election – promise to uplift the condition of the poor. Their campaigning slogans assure the wretched living from hand to mouth that their pathetic living conditions will improve, and they will get health and education.

The severe disparity between these classes proves the fact that wealth is unevenly distributed. It not only turns the suffering segments of society unhappy and angry against the system but also creates hostility among them.

As a nation, however, we can change our alarming state of poverty and illiteracy if we single-mindedly follow the nations that have progressed within a few years from being poor third-world countries to some of the leading ones. Let’s consider Singapore as a glaring example.

Singapore was typically a third-world country like ours but without any inherent resources that we luckily have. The turnaround came in Singapore when Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping devised a formula – MPH – for the Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew to follow to progress. M stood for meritocracy, P for pragmatism and H for honesty.

Meritocracy meant that all government jobs were to be allotted based on merit and qualification without any consideration for ‘who’s who’ or who’s related to whom. Students in Singapore are admitted in colleges and universities purely on merit without any string-pulling from behind the scene. As a result, Singapore possesses a highly educated and skilled workforce to deliver to the nation. The country’s universities, medical colleges and hospitals are counted among the best in the world. In comparison, it is tragic how merit in our country is given such little importance. Many in the top positions of the civil bureaucracy and judiciary are related to one another.

‘P’ in the formula for success stands for pragmatism. Singapore’s state policies are based on a practical approach unlike Pakistan where loss-making monsters, state-run organizations like the Pakistan Steel Mills and PIA, incur losses worth billions every year but successive governments hesitate to privatize them because of political pressures. Last year, the PSM accumulated a loss of Rs67 billion in the first six months.

Consequently, every taxpayer has to bear the burden of the loss-making behemoths. Could Singapore allow its vibrant economy to suffer from such recurring losses for years? Never. The PSM hasn’t produced a piece of steel since 2015 but its employees are paid hundreds of millions in salaries each month.

‘H’, the most important feature of the magic formula for taking rapid hikes from a poor third-world country to a first-world country, is honesty. It means zero tolerance for corruption. Singapore’s prime minister, under whose government the country progressed, carried out accountability from top downward. With an honest bureaucracy and a progressing economy, the country turned into a hub of foreign investment. It improved the living conditions of the people and raised their social status among the comity of nations. Too high standards for us to meet, aren’t they?

So organized is the Singaporean government that it decided to reduce the population of domestic crows that had started attacking people in parks and on roads. The group director of wildlife management at the National Parks Board ordered that crows’ nests be pulled down, set up traps and prune the trees in public interest. We have a wild growth of birds of prey to cope with. Recently there was an article in this newspaper as to what prompted the increase in population of these birds.

All that one witnesses are kites hovering in the sky and thousands of crows making citizens’ lives miserable by their cawing round the clock. As pointed out in the article, the main reason for the growth of these birds is the ‘sadqa’ in the shape of meat leftovers the people throw on the roads and outside their homes.

The Lahore Canal Bank road is notorious for this activity where kites are seen swooping down to get their share of meat that passers-by feed them. Sometime back my cousin Mansoor Khan lost his car’s windshield when a kite struck against it. Surprisingly, the windshield broke in pieces but the kite survived. Whether Mansoor was a ‘meat thrower’ to the kites, he didn’t admit.

Email: pinecity@gmail.com

Iftekhar A Khan, "Financial inequality breeds contempt," The News. 2023-06-02.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Political pressures , Politicians , Taxpayer , PM Lee Kuan Yew , Deng Xiaoping , Singapore , China , PIA , MPH