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Human hybrids in economic system

What is more important – knowledge of economics as taught and practised in the West or Wisdom as practised in the East or local level ethics? Pakistan has always been in the grip of these western taught people that have very little interaction with locals. If by definition the foreign-oriented expatriate is zero on local matters how is it going to impact at the policy level? One of such persons turned up in planning and the entire planning process today is in a mess.

The 1200-odd people that work there in various positions have to be made to work. That in the given circumstances is not possible. They are all on a pension. No one in that organisation can stand alone strictly on the moral and/or true value of things. Superiority these days is valued on the basis of wealth and not on the basis of knowledge and a developed mind. A developed mind does not work on superior or inferior basis but on reason. Rather its impact is felt by ordinary people.

The desire of these Pakistani expatriates is based on a couple of self involved issues. Some of them went in to junior positions in the international agencies and served in these institutions. I recall how they then lobbied for jobs. If they were so red hot why did they seek help from relatives of those in power? Some went so far as to take the powers that be shopping in the developed countries. Each expatriate had his own way of getting to the top. All of them were people of some substance that they had gathered while in the other countries.

Without naming names all of them had doctoral degrees and all of them were naïve about local level knowledge. A degree of that nature is not one of absolute knowledge but speaks of a developed mind. My contention has always been that a PhD degree is an indication of someone who can redefine a problem and determine a solution thereof. These jokers that came in from the West were subjected to too much humiliation as very few of them went to the top but were followers of orders. Yes they were paid well as that ensured that they would be subjected to the directions of the bosses. A brown or black man seldom went to the top but accepted as necessary ornaments to be kept and utilised as a hitman for the economic deprivation of the developing countries. Perkins makes it quite clear that the Western countries would give loans and then siphon of these loans under the conditions laid down. There were other options that were exercised during Ayub Khan’s regime and Pakistan was told how it could exercise economic options. A number of new initiatives came into being including the Pakistan Institute of Economic Development and the Planning commission. Sartaj Aziz and Mehbub-ul-Haq were the first ones and the latter came in as Zia’s minister in initially planning and then finance while Sartaj took a back seat as Minister of state for agriculture. Sartaj was a person with exponential experience and his local knowledge was far more informed than Dr Mehbub-ul-Haq’s. On occasions, Dr Haq was asked whether he had ever been to the rural areas and if so which ones. Some of them had not even done any map-reading of the country. Meetings where local knowledge was required were embarrassing. While one of them came and went the other is now holding the reins of the PML-N and advises them on economic and financial matters. He was after all Nawaz’s finance minister.

In later years many came but mention has to be made of the debacle that Musharraf’s choice created. He had Shaukat Aziz as federal finance minister, and Ishrat Husain as Governor State Bank. Dr Ishrat had extensive knowledge of the economic and political (a career civil servant he had also served in the then East Pakistan) situation and used his knowledge of local conditions extremely well. The debates were always meaningful. One could and did disagree with powers that be in the State Bank meetings. I do not think that since then there has been that kind of interaction between the State Bank and others. His local and incisive knowledge will continue to be his strength. By and large Pakistan has to work its own sums. There can never be any concrete help, even if the developed countries so desire. One American spilled the beans on the cruel game being played. The Western world was shocked by John Perkin’s documentation in the book ‘Confessions of an Economic Hit Man’. Pakistanis did not realise the importance of the book and the seamy side of aid and development economics.

Where then is the character that we keep on reading in Western books? It seems that they say something and do the reverse. In one of the rare meetings that I had with Cheddi Jagan former President of Guyana (while on a cricketing tour to Guyana) he narrated the details of the attack on the Chilean President Allende in the early 1970s. USA had sent the Chicago boys to the country to help develop Chile but the locals were in charge. On one occasion as consultant to an international organisation I had delivered a lecture on development at the Catholic University in Santiago the capital. I could see the hybrids at work in macroeconomics as well as at the household levels. If Pakistan is not going to realise the impact of these hybrids at the family and household level then we are headed for social disaster. We may not see it but we are aware of rising tensions at the micro level. The TV plays a lone hand at describing the gory details. Every time I see an NGO working on an awareness programme one sees the social system being sent into disarray.

What then is an Economic Hit Man [EHM] and what are his prime functions? How is he recruited and how is his family life affected are all given in the book. Let me quote ‘are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the WB, the US agency for international development and other foreign aid organisations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of the few wealthy who control the planet’s natural resources (remember Reko Diq in Balochistan. South Africa is coming to terms with the mining leases that have been under these wealthy corporations and individuals. Miners have been killed by police firing to safeguard the interests of the powerful and the rich. Thankfully Pakistan has not reached that stage yet). Their tools include fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs and extortion, sex and even murder. They play the game as old as empire but that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during the time of globalisation’.

Pakistan has a number of things coming together – economic stalemate, crisis in social sectors in a number of areas Karachi, Balochistan, KPK and Fata, not to speak of the untold miseries in other promises and elections, when everything will be questioned with fierceness. The social system is likely to deteriorate further as we have excluded more people than we have included in the development process. The planning process of the 1960s has lost out due to its stagnancy and inept polices. It was Dr McNamara (remember him) who was a chaste man after Vietnam and used to say that no organisational structure should be in position that is not sensitive to the needs of the country and its people.

Should we have our own conscience to work with for our people or should we depend on the Western powers? Above all, how does one harness the power of the local powerful and the intransigence of the others so as to blend the two together? Take care that there are no distortions but I would rather die by my own decisions than those imposed on me. Cricket teaches you shot selection in a split second – take it to the realm of economics. Time and space is always limited as Aristotle said ‘I do not have the time to write a short letter’.

Dr. Zafar Altaf, "Human hybrids in economic system," Business recorder. 2013-03-23.