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Archive for December, 1990

The State, Industry and Commerce – II

The Nawaz Sharif government has made some very laudatory and swift moves towards freeing the economy, speeding up the process started by Junejo in 1985 and continued by Ms Benazir. Open-ended incentives for locating projects in the rural areas can only encourage rapid industrialisation. Demographically speaking, it will initiate population shift back to the rural areas. Bureaucracy’s control over the granting of permissions having been reduced in the “sanctioning of” part, the Empire will strike back (to reassert their authority), probably by making utilities unavailable. The politicians ability to cope with the bureaucracy’s capacity to filibuster will be the acid test of the economic will of the new Administration, a hard rock on which the PPP wave floundered.

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The State, Industry and Commerce – I

History records the after effects of takeover of the assets of the British East India Company by the British Government in the name of the Crown subsequent to the 1857 War of Independence as a sordid example of the excesses of private enterprise being replaced by the inadequacies of bureaucracy’s lack of enterprise. Economics aside, it took almost a century for the foundations of the British Indian Empire to crumble, the residual of Imperial rule still afflicts South Asia, most particularly in ethnic and religious tension that sweeps the region. Our bureaucracy, no match for its British antecedents, particularly in honesty and sincerity of purpose, adds to its Atlas-like Administrative burden by ham-handed attempts to guide the economy of the nation, concentrating everything in the public sector, at the cost of private enterprise. Under the garb of a misguided sense of socialism that became the fashion of politics of the world in an era of slogan-mongering politicking in the 50s and 60s, more particularly the new emerging nations of the Third World, the State became a major (and dominating) participant in industry and commerce in Pakistan rather than acting to simply regulate the process in a laid-back manner, a sure recipe for disaster manifest in the despondency and hunger afflicting the masses of one of the Superpowers of today, the Soviet Union and its former proteges and client-nations of Eastern Europe. People who talk about the Marxist-Leninist type of socialism should be made to stand in queue in the bread lines of the USSR and the former COMECON countries.

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Trade and linkage factor

About six months ago, the PPP Government organised an excellent round of pre-Budget Seminars. Almost none of the advice proffered by a composite crew of respected economists, businessmen, journalists and retired bureaucrats was taken by the makers of the Budget (which did not include many PPP politicos) but the exercise by itself was extremely informative, well worth the effort. Mr Ehsanul Haq Peracha, the then beleaguered Finance Minister, neatly dodged the final session in Karachi but people like AGN Kazi and V.A. Jafarey had earlier contributed to clearing the general misconceptions surrounding the actual framing of the Budget. Given the statistics about the stagnant nature of Revenues and increasing obligations it became clear that the Government had very little room to manoeuvre. In the circumstances, Budget-making is pretty up and down high school stuff dished out by a particular financial elite among the bureaucracy.

Arrogant in the stance that whatever may be the opinion of the intelligentsia cuts no ice with them, the bureaucracy adopts an extremely condescending attitude towards any advice rendered, this includes the Born-Again retired bureaucrats. One has great respect for their knowledge and experience but the know-it-all demeanour of some of them is sickening, the thought that these programmed individuals have the authority to make or break the financial destiny of the nation by their decisions is enough to cause recurring nightmares. On a suggestion that Pakistan’s debt crisis called for the Government to make a request for a Debt Moratorium followed by Waiver and/or Debt Rescheduling, the senior officials of the Ministries of Planning and Finance winced as if a stray cat had brought something smelly through the door. More in contempt than in sheer scorn, they looked at each other before informing us that the proposition was impossible as “it would destroy Pakistan’s international financial credibility”, a policy entirely in keeping with the stated stance of the world’s financial institutions to which they owe their undying loyalty (rather than to their own nation). The plight of our misery-laden masses groaning under the increasing Debt Burden and inflation evokes only fleeting attention, passing mention as a nagging statistic. These people are failures, one of the good old Dictums of War is that you never reinforce failure, you simply sack them! Determine the affiliation of our bureaucrats in any capacity (past or present) with any of the world’s public financial institutions and they should then be separated from the nation’s financial policy making.

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