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How the Rot Started

US Secretary of State Colin Powell recently called US President George Bush, Jr. with some good news and bad news about UN inspections for Iraq’s weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), “Mr President, the good news is that Saddam Hussain has agreed to unconditional across-the-board inspections, the bad news is that he has asked for “Arthur Andersen” to carry out the inspections.” That joke sums up the backlash of the ENRON financial scandal that has afflicted a score of previously untouchable US blue-chip multi-billion dollar companies like Worldcall, Tyco etc, almost all major international accounting firms like “Arthur Andersen” are under pressure because of “creative accounting” and/or fudging financial numbers. When World Bank President Wolfensohn accused the Ms Benazir Regime in 1996 of fudging statistics, he was being discriminatory, almost all governments are guilty of this “soft” white collar crime of inflating their revenues and masking their expenditures, India regularly puts military pensions and border fortifications under innocuous “Heads” other than “Defence Expenditures”. In this new world of accounting “glasnost” it is becoming harder to mask the financial shenanigans of the kind that this country (and the world) has been witness to.


Pre-budget Economic Review – Benazir’s Choice – II

(This is the SECOND in a series of THREE articles on the subject)

Statistical indicators clearly show the deep malaise in the economy with inflation, deficit spending, corruption, etc eating away like a bunch of rats at the vitals of our economy. With revenue collection falling way short of projected targets and non-development expenditure on the rise despite Government of Pakistan’s (GoP) best efforts, GoP’s budget makers have to accomplish a Houdini act to get out of this financial Gordian knot. About the only positive indicator for GoP at this time is the blizzard of MoUs that signal the PPP regime’s all-out resolve to get foreign investment into the country at any cost, even by “mortgaging the country’s economic assets” according to a recent statement of the Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FCCI). The MoUs notwithstanding, all other indicators point to a gradual slide to impending economic doom.


Governance and Democracy

Dynamic young leadership is usually taken to be a boon for any nation, what we have seen happening in Pakistan over the past 5 years or so makes us cry out for those with experience of more years on Planet Earth. Usually intelligent and articulate, youthful leadership’s potential is often hamstrung by a whole bunch of informal Advisors from the inner circle dating back to school and college days who tend to influence/take part informally in crucial decision-making. This Under-19 lot that seem to surround youthful leadership and remove them from reality (a la Ms Benazir’s astonishing “Karachi is not boring” has undercut the system of governance as both elected representatives and selected officials have had to give way to those who do not have any idea (or expertise) of running an administration or for that matter even have a vested and accountable interest in doing so. Hardly able to find Grozny on the map (or for that matter Kigali), these “Yuppies” near the seat of power have become “experts” on foreign policy, influencing the hot and cold football with the media and as far as law and order is concerned the over-riding perception is that of a bevy of beauties let loose to run amok in a China shop (no pun intended). The hormones of our young leadership need constant companionship (remember John Kennedy’s young Presidency) to while away the time away from the rigours of Statecraft. Americans may remain nostalgic about “Camelot” that the Kennedys brought with them to Washington, the later knowledge about John F’s romp with the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Mafia-moll Judith Exner, etc gives shivers to historians about alien influence in the then decision making process.

To compound all this, a suffocating, hide-bound election mechanism has thrown up a very poor quality of leadership, without drastic reforms positively, we will have more of the same. Other than bad advice by dilettantes (and even yesterday’s debutantes) our political leadership is forced to depend upon “special interest groups” (and individuals) for survival once they are in office rather than on the electorate that voted them into office. The major problems thrown up by the present electoral system are nepotism and corruption (and accountability thereof) among our elected elite. Unless an innovative fresh (and natural) approach is made to minimising the predilection of our elected legislators for misusing the powers and privileges bestowed on them by the system, the debilitating process in our fraying society will continue.