For countries at the lower stage of economic development and productivity, like Pakistan, the model based on ‘import everything’ — when you are unable to pay for these imports considering the small export base — is not the right one. Except for the steel and gravel, nothing is ‘made in Pakistan’. The more intriguing part of the scheme is the ‘taxi-based’ payment to the Turkish company, meaning the government would pay for every seat, whether it is occupied or vacant, and would further subsidise the cost to make it attractive for commuters.
My point is, we are still far from reaching that stage and with a government at the helm that has a long history of surrendering to organised business interests, symbolised by the tax amnesty scheme, low tax rates, the widening gap between revenues and spending and giving more subsidies in the name of ‘the poor’, schemes like the Metro bus make little sense.
[Pakistan’s trade deficit amounts to $11.92 billion]
Isn’t it a joke that the country continues to beg from foreign countries, while those sections of society that are affluent, make big money and pay little or no taxes. Instead of netting tax cheats, the government makes laws to legalise their black monies. This has been done several times without there being any visible effect on broadening the tax base. This is a failed strategy of weak leaders, a visionless government and ineffective state institutions.
Another favourite project of the Sharif dynasty is distributing free laptops to students doing well in some examinations to “promote technology”. Is that the route advanced or developing countries have taken to develop information technology? Actually, in some schools in Punjab, I was amazed to see rows of computers in the labs. There is a lot of hardware on display without there being the software or skills to use them. The objective in every major development strategy of the Sharifs seems to be to create some political mileage, show ‘results’ and make people believe that the Sharif dynasty can do better than the Bhutto dynasty. The hired guns in the media and political mouthpieces with lots of connections and power to make illegal money, endlessly defend the dynasties, and when in the presence of chief oligarchs, indulge in flattery. Their mantra seems to be that ‘all is well and you are doing great work for the country’. This is an old song the professional flatterers have always sung.
You cannot escape all the loud announcements, with there being millions of rupees worth of advertisements in newspapers of mega projects that talk about ‘corridors’ and power plants. My humble submission is, how many of these mega projects have been initiated through our own national resources; are they clean, sustainable and economical; can they make Pakistan competitive? The answers to these questions will not paint a pretty picture.
The world is moving fast towards green technologies. That is where the future of mankind and the planet lies, while our ruling dynasties continue to look for softer, faster, expensive and unsustainable options. Mark my words — this government will leave the country in higher national debt than any other government in our history. This is because it neither has the credibility nor the competence to harness national resources.
Our failed model of populist politics offers no solution for complex national problems. The rulers lack the courage and wisdom to address foundational issues like education, health, governance, justice, energy and population growth.
By Rasul Bakhsh Rais: http://tribune.com.pk/story/1026365/has-anything-changed-under-the-pml-n/