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Archive for May, 1990

Direct taxation, spending and credit

(This is the THIRD in the series on the FEDERAL BUDGET).

Financial stability is based on credibility, Mr Ehsanul Haq Peracha has had such a miserable run on his lately that the only real surprise will be if he presents the Federal Budget to the nation. Having vociferously challenged anyone and her uncle to take the corrupt in her Administration to court, one hardly expected Ms Benazir to thumb her nose at the stinging judgement delivered by a High Court Judge on her Minister for State for Finance but perhaps Mr Peracha will serve a purpose, doing quite nicely as a post-Budget sacrificial offering to an aroused public. Mr Peracha may well be exonerated by the Supreme Court on any number of technicalities but Ms Benazir’s seemingly stubborn reaction is very baffling, to those who began to believe that maybe she meant every word of the ideals she speaks of so repeatedly, very very disturbing. Ms Benazir displayed amazing (??) naivete when she said a Stock Exchange is basically a non-profit institution, true, but the members stand to (and do) make millions in daily transactions.


Living off the future

(This is the SECOND in the series leading upto the FEDERAL BUDGET).

n his keynote address at the Pre-Budget seminar at Lahore Dr Akmal Hossain, eminent economist and member of the PM’s Economic Consultative Committee, touched on four sets of issues with respect to Balance of Payments (BoP), these being whether (1) we have done well or badly over the past year (2) long-term trends (3) policy package prescription of the IMF and (4) looking to the future.


Geo-political spectrum Keeping one’s cool-II

One day before the death of Gen Zia, on 16 Aug 88, the last portion in an article in THE NATION entitled KEEPING ONE’S COOL read, I quote, “Patriotism begins with a deeply imbued courage of conviction, with the embodiment of sacrifice for what one really believes in, the totality and the lack of fear in facing up to the consequences of one’s actions in good faith. The Pakistan Army has a tremendous moral obligation, held in trust by a devoted nation and in the face of grave provocation from vested interests, the maturity in the leadership of the Pakistan Army must persevere as it is our sole bulwark against the bad guys. Subject to massive doses of adverse propaganda, the military leadership must show great patience, be oblivious to anything but the AIM, which is singularly and only, the defence of Pakistan”, unquote.

No amount of diplomatic footwork ever got any country geo-political advantage without an effective deterrent in the shape of strong Armed Forces. India remains the only country that operates its Armed Forces from delusions of grandeur, even the Super-Powers have basically become, for all practical purposes, isolationist in abandoning the gunboat diplomacy India pursues. India has the greatest population living below the poverty level, but its expansive (and economically expensive) reach of vision extends from the Fiji Islands in the East to the Gulf Region in the West with the Indian Ocean as the backwater for its Navy. Stunting India’s concept of a Grand Design is Pakistan, more importantly, the Pakistan Armed Forces. The country’s last martial law was an unmitigated disaster but the Pakistan Army has bounced back in the public image. Because of the evolving situation the people of this country are increasingly looking towards the leadership of the Armed Forces for succour.


The Economic Year in Review

A populist Government is always torn between two widely dissimilar choices, whether to go the popular route in avoiding the levying of taxes or to impose such taxation as may be necessary to offset necessary development. Ms Benazir’s Government chose the politically pragmatic route of avoiding taxes in fiscal 1989-90 and almost got away with it, one dare says that all conditions remaining equal, the Federal Government would not have had to resort to increasing fuel prices in the last quarter of the Budget year. The gamble did not come off, a combination of bad financial discipline, worsening world-wide economic situation, internal circumstances particularly strife affecting the port city of Karachi and the increasing threat perception from India because of the escalating situation inside Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) have combined to put all plans into an economic flat spin. The Government, therefore, resorted to a last gap fuel-hike but luckily for them the month of Ramzan timing coupled with the present apathy of the masses towards widespread protest, force multiplied by mass concern at the immediate Indian threat, has paid off.


Muslims in economic India

One of the factors that tends to divide the ethnic Sindhi from the Mohajirs (or new Sindhis) is the so-called “discrimination factor”. At the Provincial level, the Mohajirs, being confined to the major urban areas of Sindh may have been discriminated against by institution of the quota system and denial of the right of metropolitan role, at the national level the ethnic Sindhi feels the same discrimination, even after having given three Prime Ministers to Pakistan (one still ruling) in the last two decades. Discrimination in our socio-economic life is something which we must constantly seek to eradicate. The Mohajir community has given great sacrifices in leaving their hearth and home for Pakistan, a glance at the economic plight of Muslims in India shows the true face of discrimination, the Mohajirs may rest well-assured that their sacrifices have been well-worth the effort.


Labouring over a policy

Over a hundred years ago, a number of workers were gunned down in Chicago, the event is commemorated every year on first May as MAY DAY. Various rallies being held all over the world, in Pakistan, like in other third world countries, abundant rhetoric is the order of the day. Labour is faring relatively better under a democratic system than anytime during the last decade, perception having changed more than fact. One is wonder-struck why desperate calls for MAYDAY, the international distress signal, have not arisen in chorus from our troubled labour class (and in some cases, at the reverse end of the stick, our industrialists).

The industrial and commercial workers comprise the recognized labour class, leaving out the vast mass of agriculture workers who are maltreated the most, a fair percentage being women. No laws seem effectively to apply for the benefit of Labour, particularly about their wages and the payment thereof. Every single worker must be paid by cheque or by direct transfer to his individual bank account. Used to being paid in cash, workers may suffer some disruption to their normal routine, commensurately they will have the following benefits (1) the actual amount paid to individuals will be reflected in bank transactions, making for a statistical record of sorts (2) avoidance of the normal penchant of the industrial units/commercial concerns to exaggerate actual salary paid out (for income tax purposes) (3) real record will be available for deductions pertaining to Employees Social Security Institutions (ESSI) and Employees Old-Age Benefit Institutions (EOBI), in this case less workers and salaries paid are declared (4) individuals will perforce be forced into the habit of savings, inducing more national savings while at the same time the individual has a reserve for a rainy day (5) money can be transferred from bank account to bank account of individual at place of work to his original place of residence or location of family, etc (6) inordinate losses of money on pay day of workers at the hand of unscrupulous individuals/exploiters will be avoided. While there has been worker resistance to this idea, ultimately it has been taken by the broad mass of workers to have worked wherever implemented. Payment of salaries in cash causes too much money to float in the unaccounted sector during a particular period of the month.