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The undeserving rich

The requirement in modern-day life of a country is to see that the opportunities are provided to all and sundry as equitably as possible. That is easier said than done. Take the case of Balochistan and the intervention that one sought to rectify the matter.

I have said and I will say it again that Balochistan is where the future of food security lies. We now have a ministry for food security and nutrition and they should seriously look after the requirement of the country and the province. I have also maintained that there is no such thing as banjar qadeem land (un-exploitable land) and there is no water that is not useable. These were tough matters to prove and so I went about it in right earnest. A point had to be proved to those who have lived a sheltered life in agriculture education. These projects were for the people that live on the margins.

It is those that are rich that will be the subject matter of discussion today. Have they paid the debt to their country for providing them the opportunity to do something and then over and above this to use these resources in the most arbitrary and perfunctory manner? Very early on I had come to the conclusion that the entrepreneur is non-existent in Pakistan.

If entrepreneur is defined as someone who takes risks then in Pakistan there is not a single one who will come into this category. For one all investment projects are over-invoiced. If the machinery costs a certain sum then the actual cost will be cost plus x.

The x factor then is the extra amount that has been garnered from the system. This will not only manage the equity participation of the new entrepreneur but will also enable him to make a house and manage other social costs that he may have to encounter. The normal ratio is 60:40 for loans and equity, with working capital aspects to be applied for later on.

Why does Pakistan have this problem of cheating to thrive? Probably we had this at the back of our head and that when the opportunity arises to go into action. These opportunities are only in the formal corporate sector. The make doers who largely work under sweat conditions and eke out a meagre income are hard put to take any alternative action. These alternative options are available not to the poor or the struggling but to the rich and the powerful. Pakistan has forgotten the utility of small estates and what they can do to generate income in a diverse manner.

The small industrial estates of Gujrat, Gujranwala and so on speak volumes of the estates to build a coterie of small industrialists. At that time I used to monitor the industrial electricity connections as an indication of industrial activity. Nowadays, there is no movement as to issuing of electricity licences. There are alternative means. I still remember that the light engineering industry in Gujranwala increased by a whopping 136% on year-to-year basis. If memory serves me right this was not an exception but the norms and the industrial sites all over the country did meet the targets and beyond. These were small ustad workshops sprouting all over the country.

The political element in the rich is strong. As a result of the resources that they have developed over the years they are quite capable of bulldozing their way into the corridors of power. They are also quite capable of trying to influence the policymakers. The present political government is of their own making. When the power is based on a politico-economic system then there is precious little others can do about it. The locations of the investments leave a lot to be desired as they want to go where the going is easy for none of them are trailblazers. There is no private sector worth the name. The private sector is known for its independent and interdependence. This is entirely missing.

So what can the present government that has come in on a landslide of the right wing and liberal policies do about this kind of work. It may be added that it is there that real mettle of the political system will have to be tested. It is a pretty hard knock. Balochistan provides no easy answers and yet it is here that a make or die situation for the party that seeks the action in order to solve these matters. There is a considerable amount of lament about Balochistan. That is really an indication of poverty of imagination so far as interventions are concerned. Whenever and wherever decisions are taken that are an apology for larger and tougher (not combative) intervention the greater are the chances of an inadequate response. The rich have to move towards not avoiding and evading their tax returns. On the part of the governors of this country the use of these resources has to be made efficient. Pricing of every product from and to Balochistan has to be worked out on economic realities, which means that the loss has to be taken by the state by pricing products below the marginal prices.

Can the business community come and support the governance in and of this country? Karachi is a mess and so are the other large towns. It is time to consider our urban policies. It is time to consider each segment of our management systems. We are terrible at enacting laws that depict the existing state of our society. We are worse when we see that we have not re-determined the laws when their utility has been lost.

The democratic system has to work a fine line between reason and non-reasonable action in that part of the country. What is true for the poor in Balochistan is also true for other parts of the country that are poor? Pakistan is to come to terms with itself and no other country can or will help in the governance and management of the country. Money has never been critical although a certain amount is needed. What is more important is the ability to apply oneself to the task ahead, this in the most reasonable matter. That means that we have to start looking at our institutions and human resources that deal with the grass roots realities. It is no use to say that the patwari will be transferred by the CM and no one else; that the thanedar will be sorted out. These are generic statements that cannot be implemented. Decades of regressive polices by the police have led to this kind of contrary polices and actions by the police.

Please loom at the sum total of the policies and then realise whether the country has achieved what it did when the colonial yoke was thrown away way back in 1947. Pose yourself some hard questions. Find some different and alternate answers to the questions so raised. Independence requires sacrifices not by the common man but by those that have wasted materials and resources in making themselves rich. The undeserved rich needs to be identified. The crutches that the state has been providing to these need to be removed. One of the best places is what Imran Khan has been propounding that the assets of the political system and all those that matter should be on the website. And why not?

Dr. Zafar Altaf, "The undeserving rich," Business recorder. 2013-06-22.
Keywords: Social sciences , Social rights , Social needs , Social velues , Social system , Land , Electricity licenses , Engineering industry , Policymakers , Balochistan , Karachi