Dr Sheikh’s finding


Finally, the finance minister admits that the model of the state running crucial institutions is faulty. Perhaps PIA, Railways, PSM, and practically all such giants under government control had to become sick with debt and addicted to bailouts to finally mobilise the finance ministry. That is, assuming, that the ministry has decided to mobilise. And Dr Sheikh was quick to follow the novel by the usual, noting somehow that prudent policies are beginning to translate into encouraging signs of economic recovery. Yet we remain caught in persistent stagflation, half way through the fiscal most crucial indicators are shy of targets, and public institutions seem likely to milk the government for at least the foreseeable future.
Since the announcement of the budget, we have pushed the finance ministry to sort out revenue collection ahead of all essential measures if there is to be any chance of meeting ambitious targets. Yet month after month not only did we not notice any proactive posturing towards improve collection, we also saw no visible efforts to check blatant leakages. Ironically, PSEs provide the best example. They remain politicised despite the hemorrhaging black hole they have delivered to the system. Even if the finance ministry’s sincerity is to be believed at face value, it cannot duck the responsibility of impressing the urgency upon top decision-makers in Islamabad. In this, at least, it has failed, and to no small extent.
Dr Sheikh must now follow his finding by at least spelling out, and in considerable detail, what is to be done of these dented institutions that were supposed to be the pride and joy of the national exchequer. Our economic and financial ills call for a serious and drastic reorientation of our fiscal outlook. The sooner Dr Sheikh can initiate appropriate reforms, the sooner we can prepare for a more realistic growth mix. He knows well what is to be done – FBR overhaul, export diversification, privatisation. He also knows how to do it. We just don’t understand why he is unable to do it.