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Archive for June, 1989

The honeymoon is over

In the US, the new President has an unofficial 100 days which serves, for want of better word, as a honeymoon. In normal circumstances, this would have been an ideal period for a new government in Pakistan to find its mooring but because of the “90 day syndrome” and its mixed connotations for Pakistan, fate decreed that the Government of Ms Benazir Bhutto has had to face crisis of sorts almost from the word “go”, not the least of them being that the financial cupboard is bare.

Ms. Benazir has a number of “firsts” to her credit, being the youngest head of Government and the first female in the Islamic world to be PM, but as Pakistanis we are more concerned with her record sheet than her place as a statistic in a record book. During the last 60 days not much water has flowed under the bridge, but the PM has tried, despite the paucity of skilled talent available within her political inner circle, to come to grips with the manifold problems facing Pakistan. Conventional Wisdom-Newsweek Style (CW) demands that we take stock of the situation with a predilection for the future, the past being left to posterity to dissect in its own mysterious ways.

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China, handle with care!

For many centuries China has fascinated the western world, the first glimpses being available through the odyssey of Marco Polo in the days of the great Kublai Khan. Over the past two centuries no other country in the world has seen more outside interference in their internal affairs, making the Chinese, already historically inscrutable, insular as a people. The analysis of the relationship with outsiders is thus intriguing but not surprising, through the ages the Chinese have become, with good reason, extremely suspicious of the intentions of foreigners. In the nineteenth century, the economic lifeline was in the hands of unscrupulous European merchants, they held China in virtual thrall through the opium trade, Hong Kong came up only as a staging point for the merciless commercial exploitation of the mainland. The last Emperor faded out of contention with the rise of the Kuomintang (KMT), the KMT remnants in their turn being eventually pushed out to Taiwan and Formosa, even as Japanese militarism (and their occupying presence in China) faded into oblivion in the whole of Asia.

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Trade policy analysis

(This is the FIRST in a series of TWO articles with analysis and suggestions for a NATIONAL TRADE POLICY).

Last June, a three year TRADE POLICY was annunciated by Dr Mahbubal Haq, the AIM being to emulate the remarkable performance of Turkey, which has, from a standing start with us six years ago, crossed the US$ 10 billion mark in exports. Dr Turgut Ozal’s parallel ascent to the post of PM in recognition of his creating of the Turkish miracle must have acted as a great incentive for Dr Haq, however the end result was a policy long on rhetoric and short on substance. In fairness to Dr Haq, he did in fact propose some positive innovations but failed to put into place those wide ranging organisational changes in the infrastructure of our trade mechanism without which the end result was far less than the desired targets. The major reform required is to shake off the all-encompassing embrace of bureaucratic control without which commerce is doomed to progress only at a routine pace in sharp contrast to the role model Turkish standards. Dr Haq is often criticised by us for his chameleon policies but given the circumstances availing in June 1988, particularly after the flak he was taking, more for the demeanour than the content of his Budget speech, the fact does remain that he thereupon was thrust into a no-win situation allowing him little running room to carry out his proposals and thus absolving him partly. He did initiate a remarkable policy for tea, which has since been scuttled by the PPP Government under pressure.

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Playing Safe

The Federal Budget proposal on June 3, 1989 was eminently predictable and in more ways than one THE NATION has lived upto the ipso facto “I told you so” statement, particularly in the rendering of the verdict, “Read her Lips, No new taxes?” published on May 30, 1989. Ms Benazir had limited choices, she had to steer a safe course in the given circumstances and to the extent of putting the wind out of the sails of her political opponents, she has certainly succeeded. In this country and in this situation this has been no mean achievement, particularly as she stood to be exposed to the cynosure of the world Press during her US visit this week, troops and police battling demonstrators would hardly be the fitting images on prime time US TV of any democracy, fledgling or otherwise.

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More bang for the buck!

Nations that want to retain their sovereignty have to spend substantial sums for their defence needs. This emphasis on defence expenditures extends to even those countries whose defence shields are provided by protective allies. For third world countries, already over-burdened economically by crushing external debt, earmarking of large outlays for defence material and manpower, is for the most part unacceptable. Only the thought that India, with the bulk of its population below the poverty level, spends a mind-boggling amount on their fairy-tale perception of defence needs (which invariably means an anti-Pakistan posture), keeps us from screaming our collective heads off. With such an implacable, unrelenting foe on our borders, our financial circumstances take secondary thought as we make pro-rata commensurate increases in our defence outlays. Indian ambitions are too blatant for us to behave like an ostrich. While matching them gun for gun may not be either feasible or possible, we are obliged to maintain a proportionate ratio so that numerical or qualitative superiority does not overwhelm us without a fight as has happened recently in Sri Lanka. With the Afghan situation not likely to get better in a hurry after the departure of the Russians, our volatile borders will dictate a two-front approach, the division of our meagre resources indicating a defence posture based on interior lines of communications with an inherent capability to move large bodies of troops on short notice for strategic and/or tactical purposes. Thanks to generous US Aid, dictated out of the threat perception to their strategic interests in the Persian Gulf, we have managed to induct quality material in good quantities into the three services, particularly the Pakistan Air Force where the acquiring of the F-16, the Fighting Falcon, has given us a qualitative edge in the field of air superiority. Our greatest failing has been a significant lack of progress in indigenous defence production where a singular lack of will has inspired a lip-service fanfare of achievements interspersed with some actual transfer of technology from time to time.

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Defence budget

Defence Forces of any country essentially consist of (1) Personnel (2) Equipment (including arms and ammunition) and (3) Real Estate. The Budget to maintain the Defence Services, therefore, revolves around these three major heads consisting of (1) Administrative (2) Training and (3) Operational expenditures. Despite the best of intentions and professionalism of the present generation of general officers, we are constrained by hidebound concepts and methods, some of them being handed down for more than a century. It requires men of exceptional vision and professional courage to break out of this mould, to get out of the rut of routine. The fact that the Indians are in a worse predicament than we are is no consolation, the relative sizes dictate that our Armed Forces have to be that much more efficient, we simply must get more bang out of the buck. At the present time our annual budget faces average losses of 35% or more due to faulty planning, bad organisation and inefficiency. We pay a lot of lip-service to organising a unified Armed Services concept but hardly ever practice what is ardently preached.

Our Tables of Organisation and Equipment (T O & E) are an amalgam of the continuing British heritage married to the tactics and doctrine adopted by us from USA along with US military aid. We have never got down to any drastic changes since the 1950s, our rank and command structure is thoroughly antiquated. If nothing else our military edifice bears no resemblance to the simplicity (and thus effectiveness) of command effected by our Islamic predecessors. We have never really shrugged off the debilitating constraints of the routine, the pomp and/or show, one living example is that instead of the Second in Command (21C) of any unit being the operating executive officer, we follow the British system of relatively junior officers acting as adjutant/quartermasters whereas seniority and experience dictates otherwise. The Armed Forces are meant to be a fighting machine, this must be honed to be an efficiently destructive force, capable of inflicting crushing defeat on the enemy. Whereas we must persevere with any useful procedures and lessons from the past, our vision should be established on the future, it must not become mired in systems that pre-date World War II. We have to make the fighting units fully operational, command and structurewise, with greater weightage given for operational postings in fighting units than the comfort of staff. At the moment, however, we are faced with a grave crisis on our frontiers and all our energies would be well utilised in preparing the Defence Forces for war, this is no time to effect structural changes, it will only confuse the issue at this stage, in the manner that the Indian Army post-Sunderji is still struggling with convoluted concepts which have not been well implemented due to lack of logic-based reforms. The Prime Minister of India, V P Singh, has made his intentions well known in the manner of Shastri’s 1965 “time and place of our choosing”, and it would be madness on our part not to take due cognisance of the developing threat. In the circumstances, our Defence Budget in the immediate present and future must consist of (1) the normal peacetime allocations (2) expenditures preparatory to hostilities and (3) anticipated defence expenditures during and post-hostilities. Our approach would, therefore, be rather general in nature, taking into account detailed recommendations for peacetime expenditure allocations made in earlier years and the requirement of national security considerations.

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