One wonders at the priorities set out by the economic managers of this country. That we could not build a significant dam during the past nine years is no secret. India built 29 dams and solved the energy problem for good. Substandard increase in the size of economy nonetheless increased energy demand but we could not increase it merely because due to short-sightedness and lack of vision. The critics of IPP agreement should know that the energy crisis in this country would have been much worse had the then Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government led by shaheed Benazir Bhutto not signed the agreement. The energy crisis has turned life of the common man into a living hell. One can count scores of industrial units forced to shut down due to power outages. The projected growth rate of our economy is 5.6 percent in the fiscal year 2008-09 whereas it will be hovering around 4.5 percent in real terms. Indian economy grew consistently at an average rate of nine percent for the last six years now.
Pakistan possesses second largest coal reserves in the world. The imported prime minister vowed to start exploration in this region during his election campaign; he won the seat, vacated it after sometime and conveniently forgot his promise. Balochistan is abound with natural resources and yet it is the poorest of all provinces. Everyone talks about political solutions to this troubled province but no one comes up with economic solution.
One wonders as to what are the causes of dismal performance of our economy. A recent report of the World Bank reveals the inherent paradoxes in our economy which are the result of political inefficiencies, inordinate delay in decision making and nexus of powerful cartels paralysing the economy in the garb of their political rights. The report says that Pakistan is bestowed with fertile land, one of the largest canal systems in the world, hardworking masses and temperate climate, yet food inflation is highest in the region. Pakistan spends billion of rupees on the export of FMCG and other food items. Had the political will been there, this foreign reserve would have saved.
Two mainstream political parties had signed the Charter of Democracy (CoD) to safeguard the rights of the people. Why do not these mainstream political parties’ sign a Charter of Economy (CoE) to rid the country of current economic mess. The main points of this Megna Carta may be:
i) One political party will not retreat from/cancel the policy decisions taken after due consultations with relevant stakeholders of the other party.
ii) The signatories of this charter will discourage commissions and kickbacks during their tenure in all its forms and manifestations.
iii) Economic decisions taken purely from economic viewpoint will not be politicise at any cost.
iv) A national commission on economy will be established. It will be a constitutional body independent from political influence.
v) An economic cell will be established in secret agencies which will safeguard the economic interest of the country.
vi) Amendments will be made in the 1973 Constitution and the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), ensuring speedy justice to foreign investors irrespective of the fact which party is in power.
vii) No party will award ticket to any person involved in any financial scam.
viii) The parties will strive for land reforms and introduce a bill in the parliament in this context at the earliest.
ix) The poorest of the poor will be provided interest-free loans and grant of subsidy will be directed to this segment.
x) The holder of any public office will require announcing his/her assets before and after assuming office. National Commission on Economy will verify the claims.
xi) The net profit of multinationals operating in Pakistan, especially in the fields’ of pharmaceuticals, fast food, automobiles and consumable items will not exceed as compared to other countries of the region.
xii) Natural resources will be explored to the fullest. Interest-free loans to the poor will be given. A sizeable amount of budget will be reserved for this purpose and locals of the area will be given preference in job market.
xiii) The natives of that area will have the first right to utilise that resource under an independent economic commission.
xiv) Every effort will be made to make Pakistan a welfare state.
xv) The total budget allocation to national defence will not exceed more than three percent to the GDP (in India this allocation forms a mere 1.98 percent of total GDP
These and many other provisions may find the basis of this Magna Carta. People of the country definitely deserve a better future. After all, the prime objective of democracy is to give people a sense of indulgence in the statecraft and it will demonstrate itself quite evidently once their needs are taken care of. It could be said beyond any iota of doubt that people want CoE and not CoD. Can deposed judges formulate an independent commission on economy, implement land reforms and carry out amendment to the Constitution? Surely they cannot; they are dependent on the parliament for that. So let the parliament do its job.
The brain drain continued for the last so many years is touching the alarming scale as educated youth finds it increasingly difficult these days to solicit a respectable job offer once they complete education. The result is that these people are going abroad; they prove their mettle there, contribute to their economy and resultantly assured of every social benefit. Examples of success may be witnessed in North American and European countries where fellow Pakistanis form a considerable representation in economic and political decision making.
Pakistanis are capable of achieving big success. What is required is the political will like the one our leaders displayed in the wake of India’s nuclear testing in 1974. One prime minister brought a nuclear scientist back to country.
A military leader hanged him but continued the programme covertly; another prime minister, another political party but the programme continued without any hiccups and by the end of the 1980s, Pakistan actually had achieved the milestone in this field. This could serve as a glaring example. So let’s do it!