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Archive for May, 1997

Military Industria Welfare Complex

At the height of the Second World War, the British took into consideration the post-war requirements of the servicemen from the South Asian sub-continent taking part in the conflict and from 1942 onwards made a contribution to a “Military Reconstruction Fund” for both combatants (Rs 2 per month) and non-combatants (Rs 1 per month). Pakistan’s share came to a princely sum of Rs 18 million, which it received at independence in 1947. After a period of 13 years, the original amount plus interest thereof was converted into a Post-Services War Reconstruction Fund (PWSRF) under the management of the Army. In 1967, it was re-named as the Fauji Foundation. In 1972 Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, fresh from having unseated the then COAS Lt Gen Gul Hassan and the CAS Air Marshal Rahim Khan, and with a very obedient COAS in the form of Gen Tikka Khan, took the organisation from the sole purview of the Army and put it under the control of the Ministry of Defence with the Secretary Defence as the Chairman of the Committee of Administration (C of A). The other Members are ex-officio the four Principal Staff Officers of GHQ i.e the Chief of General Staff (CGS), the Adjutant General (AG), the Quartermaster General (QMG) and the Master General of Ordinance (MGO) with the Deputy Chief the Naval Staff (DCNS) from Naval HQ (NHQ) and the Deputy Chief of Air Force (DCAS) from Air Force HQ (AHQ) as the other Members. The Secretary of the Central Board of Directors (CBOD) officiates as the Secretary of the C of A. The CBOD functions under the C of A with the Secretary Defence as its Chairman with the Managing Director (MD) of Fauji Foundation as the Vice Chairman and Managing Director. The MD is the Chief Executive of the Corporate Body for all day to day running of the Foundation. The other Directors are of Finance, Planning and Development, Personnel and Administration, Welfare, Sugar and Industries. The MD has overall control and supervision of all of Fauji Foundation activities such as Industrial, Commercial, Welfare or otherwise including coordination and implementation of all decisions and policies of the CBOD. As an independent legal entity operating in the private sector the Foundation is a Charitable Trust that receives no financial assistance from either the Federal or Provincial Government or any other organisation, it also does not accept donations or contribution of any kind from any individual or agency. All the funds are generated from Fauji’s own industrial activities.

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Monitoring Supply Sided Economics

Complementary to Ronald Reagan’s supply-sided economics of lowering taxes across the board and controlling expenditures, thereby consecutively generating productivity, Thatcherism’s main props are disinvestment and denationalisation of the socialistic public sector. Both philosophies coalesce in the full-fledged exploitation of private sector entrepreneurial expertise by disengaging the State from everyday life of the average citizen. The Sartaj Aziz initiatives inculcates both the capitalistic principles, cutting down of public sector involvement on the one hand and drastic lowering of taxes and duties on the other. His prescription is that reduction of government expenditures and the taking over of the inefficient public sector by the competitive private sector is thus matched by tax reduction incentives to entrepreneurs to lower prices, thus making it more attractive for consumers to spend more. This in turn creates a possible economic cycle of more products and services which not only makes of the resultant shortfall in revenues but also creates more jobs. The sum total of disengagement when multiplied by reduced taxes leads to force-multiplier productivity. This is the logic Finance Minister Sartaj Aziz used to excellent effect with IMF MD Michel Camdessus during his recent visit to the US. In any society where an effective monitoring mechanism exists, this strategy has a good chance of success. In a country where the basic tools of monitoring assessment and collection of revenues are flawed, this route is more than a calculated risk, a gamble that the country may well lose without the safety net of adequate and precisely structured monitoring arrangements. For the record, while seeking the Republican nomination for 1980 US Presidential race, George Bush had attacked then candidate-aspirant Ronald Reagan for espousing “voodoo-economics” as supply-siding was then labelled by him. When George Bush later became Reagan’s VP running mate in his bid for the US Presidency, the Democrats made him virtually eat his words many times over. As US President in his own right in 1988, George Bush faithfully followed the hitherto successful economic prescription of his predecessor till he faltered at the increasing budget deficit and went back on his campaign promise, to quote, “Read my lips, no new taxes!”. Despite the most advanced tax collection machinery in the world, the US economists could not accurately predict that revenues would be far short of projections and expenditures far more than planned, the resultant gap necessitated fresh taxation and destroyed President Bush’s credibility with the US electorate and his bid for a second term. Even the vaunted US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) cannot keep up with human ingenuity for devising circumventions, it has now reverted to putting the onus on the individuals as regards burden of proof with respect to the means to maintain their visible lifestyles.

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Perception, image and reality

Hardly 90 days in the saddle, the Nawaz Sharif government has an image problem. Given the mandate it received in the Feb 3 elections (magnified in its extent by the drastic reduction in PPP votes) and a solid record of governance since, why is the public perception about its performance so different from reality?

Let’s take gains first! In the economic field, the rot set in by the Benazir regime was contained to an extent by Shahid Javed Burki, this revival has continued and we are certainly far better off under Sharif’s economic Czar Senator Sartaj Aziz then what we were six months ago when our only movement was downhill into an economic abyss. However, we are still very much in the woods, we have had to (and will have to) borrow heavily outside the system to meet obligations of instalment and mark-up due not so far in the future. To revive the economy we have had a drastic and courageous reduction of taxes across the board and a genuine dialogue has been opened up with the country’s entrepreneurs leading to a dynamic economic package of incentives. However, an effective mechanism to improve revenue collection has not yet been defined, in its absence the deep hole we are in may become deeper. This revivalist policy has been extended to farmers who have seen the support prices of their produce taken to a new high providing for more than a fair reward for their labour. On the accountability front there is movement to get at bureaucrats though most of the names appearing on the lists appearing so far mean that the process is yet not focussed giving rise to speculation whether the accountability ongoing exercise is really “kosher” or meant to target only a selected few whose heads had to roll because of their known proximity to the Benazir-Zardari duo. The National Assembly and the Senate are really engaged in the process of legislative business which is their prime raison d’etre, obviating the necessity of the government ruling through the decree of Presidential Ordinances as was the usual wont of the Benazir regime. There is only a hint (at least as yet) of corruption in the ruling circle, a sea-change from the all-encompassing environment of corruption that prevailed for all of last 3 years. One cannot say the same for nepotism which continues unabated though at a much lower pace and with lesser fanfare. In most of the government, semi-government and public sector corporations there seems to be an air of seriousness of purpose rather than the laissez-faire attitude of anything goes that had been persisting for some time in the absence of focussed management and administration. Above all there is a recognition that the rule of law prevails and while the law of the jungle may still persist it is not so much manifest as it was before. In sum there is the return of governance in the body politic of the nation instead of the exercise of arbitrary authority on whimsical grounds if not motivated ones.

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Perception, image and reality

Hardly 90 days in the saddle, the Nawaz Sharif government has an image problem. Given the mandate it received in the Feb 3 elections (magnified in its extent by the drastic reduction in PPP votes) and a solid record of governance since, why is the public perception about its performance so different from reality?

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AESSA concept and the Confederacy idea

India’s Defence Minister and strongman of the ruling United Front (UF) Government, Malayam Singh Yadav has talked about a confederation between India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Known to be a rather earthy political manipulator par excellence at the State level (Uttar Pradesh) rather than any great strategic thinker or visionary, Yadav’s pronouncement a fortnight or so before the SAARC Summit at Male in the Maldives seems to be an agenda annunciation on behalf of the intellectual PM he serves, Inder Kumar Gujral. India has been served by some cerebral and visionary PMs with integrity, among them Morarji Desai and VP Singh. However frail the political coalition that keeps him in power, Gujral is one of them. For some odd reason, Pakistanis seem to think that this genial man, born in Jhelum and therefore a fellow Punjabi, is a pushover. That is very far from the truth, as an affable diplomatic being who gives the impression of being easy going, Gujral is far more dangerous than a chest-beating Jan Sanghi. Among all the Indian leaders, he is closest to what Kautalya (remember the 5000 years old Kautalya Arthshastra, supposedly a book on economics and statecraft but actually the ultimate handbook of deviousness in statecraft) would have been today. His peace with Pakistan is without Kashmir and on Indian terms. Diplomatically isolating Pakistan within SAARC by the establishment of a sub-regional grouping comprising India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan during his tenure as Foreign Minister in the last United Front (UF) Government, Gujral is now “innocently” dangling a “carrot” in front of Pakistanis. He seems to be gambling that desperate to get out of our present dire economic straits, the main prop of which would be to reduce defence expenditures, we may opt to compromise if not entirely surrender our claims in Kashmir in whatever face-saving measure, to come together in peace and the economic security of either a regional sub-grouping or a confederation. This sweet old man (77 at last count) wants us to roll over and accept India’s hegemony, the establishment of Akhund Bharat by another mechanism in the region, as a fait accompli. Just in case we miss the point (of the sword) he intends to keep the pressure on Pakistan going, loudly musing about another sub-regional grouping within SAARC excluding Pakistan and comprising India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

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