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Archive for June, 2005

Privatisation Concerns

Despite my strong reservations about handing over control of “national security” assets like PTCL and PSO to foreign ownership, privatization is a must for Pakistan’s economic revival, not only does it get much needed funds to retire our accumulated country debt but it also brings in much required expertise and better management as well as access to technology. Given the “fait accompli” about PTCL one must recognize that, viz (1) the price offered for 26% shares by the winning bidder was far more than anticipated, and therefore extremely welcome and (3) the purchaser was Etisalat, the telecommunications company of one of our closest nation-friends, the UAE, therefore qualming some of our nation-security concerns. Congratulations are in order for Privatization Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and his team for a job extremely well done, one will keep hoping and praying that we are as lucky with PSO.

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Let Them Eat Cakes!

The macro-economic indicators of the nation are looking good, this has been confirmed by all credible monitoring institutions, both domestic and international. The micro-economic indicators are far more realistic because of the pell-mell rush towards a free market economy, inflationary tendencies at the ground level have put enormous pressure on the socio-economic well-being of the masses. The poor are not the only ones badly hit, so are a vast percentage of the middle class. A fair percentage of those classified as middle class on paper are rapidly joining the ranks of the poverty-stricken. While this unusual situation is not uncommon in developing countries, the rulers have a moral responsibility to take sound command decisions to ensure that the gap between the rich and the poor does not increase further as is unfortunately now the case. Whoever is privileged to be the ruler of the nation, for whatever reasons and by whatever means he or she has become the ruler, they must not only be ready to face the unpalatable truth about the miseries visiting the population, but to do something about it.

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An Indian Journey

Compared to Pakistan’s Karachi and Lahore airports, Mumbai’s domestic departure terminal was a shock, a scene of organized chaos. This disappointment lasted till one left the exit gates of the Terminal for boarding, the time taken from that point till the pull-back of the Boeing 737 of Jet Airways for departure from Mumbai to Hyderabad was a super-efficient 20 minutes, this included another mandatory security check and an optional one. There was no hassle. An elderly gentleman alongwith uniformed ADC went through the security checks and boarded the bus to the parked aircraft with us. Surprise, surprise. Next day we discovered when he came to address us at the South Asia Editor’s Forum (SAEF) meeting at the Sheraton, Hyderabad that he was Balram Jaikad, the Governor of Madhya Pradesh. While each one of the Ministers who addressed us including Union Ministers for Information and Culture. Jaipal Reddy and Praful Patel as well as Congress Party Chief Minister for Andhra Pradesh (AD), Dr Rajeshwar Reddy, was eloquent and impressive in extempore speeches exceeding 30-35 minutes, FC College Lahore Alumni (circa 1945) Balram Jaikad, former speaker of the Lok Sabha and Indira Gandhi’s Agriculture Minister etc was, alongwith Jaipal Reddy, the pick of the lot. None of the Ministers, as well as the Minister for Information, Andhra Pradesh displayed any arrogance or snobbery; it was singularly for me, and collectively for all my colleagues, who included Javed Jabbar, Mahmood Shaam, Senator Fasih, Agha Masood, Kazi Asad Abid and Riaz Mansuri an extremely pleasant experience, besides being a very informative one.

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