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Archive for February, 1988

Economic letter – Of economic bondage

Every political party has one expressed aim, a better way of life for the masses. Economics dominates the expressed manifesto of all political aspirations and any of the promises are made in the pursuance of the singular objective of bettering one’s economic conditions, as individuals and as a nation. In a sense, all roads lead to Rome, Rome in this particular variation being the equivalent of Economic Valhalla. All party manifestos are festooned with altruistic intonations of a better life, you vote us into power, they say, and we will give you what you ardently desire, food, clothing, medicine, education, forgetting that these are basic needs, not objects of desire, and are embodied in our own religion as being essentials to be guaranteed by the State. That the State has failed miserably to provide them is a result of natural and man-made disasters and cannot be blamed on any one regime. To their credit both the PPP and the present regime in Pakistan have attempted to ameliorate the general condition of the masses and you do find some substance once the trimmings of self-praise are removed. The Junejo Government with its Five-point programme has brought about a variation of the PPP’s Roti, Kapra aur Makan. Bottlenecks aside, the fact remains that they are serious about their efforts. Natural calamities notwithstanding, the Third World has generally been afflicted with charismatic but ineffectual and corrupt leaders, long on promises and short on deliverance. These leaders are the ultimate calamities visited on an adoring population, raising mass expectations to giddy heights, only to have them frustrated by inefficient administration, outright corruption and downright nepotism. Joseph Marie de Maistre said, early in the nineteenth century, that “every nation has the Government that it deserves.”

As the hapless population of Third World countries have discovered to their detriment, freedom and democracy do not translate into square meals and adequate shelters. More often than not, foreign oppression is replaced by an even more virulent domestic oppression, one form substituted by another, manifold times more cruel, serenaded and couched in socialistic jargon. All this plays very well to liberal ears in western countries but try feeding slogans to the masses, it does not take much time for the real hunger to emerge, in all its anarchic garbs, leading to complete breakdown of social order and to an unstable era dominated by criminals, their cronies and violence reminiscent of the savage law of the jungle.

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Tender Shenanigans

Any public sector system must have an in-built system of checks and balances. A myriad number of Public Corporations came about because of sweeping nationalisation in 1972. That they were created in good faith and in the general public interest one is more than inclined to accept; that they have since become a source of indirect taxation on the people of Pakistan is also a fact of life. It makes it all the more necessary that a system must be designed to minimise nepotism, favouritism and corruption, that it must not become a hydra-headed monster fuelling not only inflation but also feeding on the economic potential for development by adding to non-developmental expenditure. One reason for rampant inflation is the result of erosion of honest dealing in the confidential processing of tenders for different commodities that need to be imported from time to time. An all-encompassing secrecy negates the inherent right of the public to ensure that no skulduggery takes place and more often than not, barring exceptional cases, the whole exercise of tendering becomes an elaborate exercise in public deception. In countries like Pakistan where some measure of state control is necessary, it becomes important to streamline the process in a manner that functionaries of the state cannot fiddle with it. It must be remembered that the sanctity of the tender remains till the Bids are opened and it is only thereafter that manipulations happen because of the secrecy of further proceedings.

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Planning for Rainy Years

A griculture and land resources formed the major production factors in the US before the American Civil War. Though there has been a gradual reversal of roles thereafter, the predominant industrial base of the NORTH ground the vast agriculture strength of the SOUTH into ultimate submission in a war of attrition. What was true of the USA in a domestic quarrel more than a century ago has become true on a global scale as the industrial NORTH draws the largely agricultural SOUTH deeper into debt and financial apocalypse. As a symbolic manifestation of how things were meant to be, the American Civil War proved a definite point. The economy in the US is now firmly dominated by industry though US agriculture products continue to set the pace in the world market even today. Whatever may be the ills of the US economy, a combination of industry and agriculture makes it the giant locomotive that acts as a yoke for most of the economies of the rest of the world. So sensitive has the world become to any hiccups in the US economy that friend and foe alike ardently desire that no devastation a la 1929 overcomes it. Critics and cynics abound in plenty, all disparaging the US in many ways, particularly decrying many perceived ills of the economic sector, but all of them have a vested interest in the continuing good health of the US economy. The repeated crop failures in the Communist world make the COMECON countries particularly vulnerable in the ultimate irony of life in today’s times.

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