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Archive for September, 1988

Politics and Economics

Political affiliations throughout the world are made primarily on the basis of mutual beliefs and economics should normally dominate all other perceptions by a long mile. It is only in South Asia that personalities dominate ideology so much that one has a myriad number of parties with the same election plank. Despite the lengthy manifestos of the various parties, the basic requirements of the people are simple and it involves food, shelter, medicine, education and clothing to start with, the 60’s expectation which brought PPP to power now standing revised by the addition of electricity, water, gas and public transportation to the wish-list, not necessarily in that order. The underlying theme must be that the aforegoing should not only be easily available but economically within reach of the common man. If there is any political party which is not promising all this, they should seek votes on the moon because they are not going to get anywhere in Pakistan.

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The Crossroads of Opportunity

Iran’s Iraq war has sputtered along violently to what seems to becoming a genuine ceasefire after long years of horrific slaughter and destruction. Mr Perez de Cuellar is hoping that Iran’s Mr Velayati and Iraq’s Mr Tariq Aziz will look each other in the eye during the ongoing Geneva talks and eventually start talking turkey. As wars go, this must rank as one of the most senseless, an unending orgy started due to misplaced Iraqi adventurism a la Saddam Hussain gone astray confounded doubly by Iranian clergical stubbornness. That Iraq clearly was the aggressor is not a debatable fact, it was; that it was Iran’s propensity to be principled on various issues that kept the war booming along is also not matter of doubt. The bottom line is that the material loss is estimated at approximately US$ 400 billion, as if the cost of a million lives, give and take 100,000, can be tabulated in such a manner.

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The economics of defence

The classic premise of economics when analysing the maintenance of large armed forces is that it entails non-productive expenditures not conducive to economic progress. As such it is not surprising that this issue arouses considerable adverse attention in the world, being of particular concern in the third world. Countries with large debt servicing problem are perennially faced with the prospect of justifying seemingly profligate expenditures on the defence services, this being the bane that causes credit donors to remain wary. In a simplistic manner it can be held to be true, but this does not take into account the genuine defence needs of such countries, which have their sovereignties endangered by unrelenting foes but are deeply committed to preserving their freedoms.

Pakistan has a major debt servicing problem though not as acute as some countries. Blessed with a large population and burdened by foreign loans, we tend to sink deeper into the debt morass on a daily basis and yet it is impossible for us to curtail our defence expenditures when confronted with such an implacable enemy like India to the east and Russia to the northwest. In such situations one does get into the habit of eating grass — and liking it. Consider India for starters. It deploys the bulk of its armed forces on our borders, exceeding ours by more than three to one in many areas, a favourable attack ratio. With massive infusion of the latest Soviet armaments at less than market prices and paid for in Barter by commodities and products on a deferred payment basis rather than in hard cash, the Indians have gathered an awesome military machine, in utter contempt of its teeming, poverty stricken, hungry millions.

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