An important, lucid read


Valuable in the present economic context

Apart from his many and well-chronicled entrepreneurial achievements, Mr Yusuf H Shirazi has to his credit half a dozen books, the second and most recent publication under review being ‘Safeguarding Sovereignty’ – a collection of articles and interviews – on a diverse range of economy or socio-economic issues. The lucidly written articles have all previously appeared in top of the line publications – both newspapers and magazines.

One of Mr Shirazi’s previous publications Aid or Trade was the recipient of the prestigious Best Book of the Year award from the Writers Guild. Yousaf H Shirazi

His present offering – Safeguarding Sovereignty has a simple yet profound creed: self-reliance.

The book deals with various themes and issues, ranging from the Pakistan economy, economic policy, industry, aid and self-reliance, finance and international finance and on such socio-political concern as ‘purging democracy of corruption’.

The role of the World Bank and the international financial institutions that he has devoted a whole section of the book to, could in the present context of Pakistan’s economic landscape be a very instructive for all concerned – the policy makers, the academics and common reader.

According to Mr Shirazi, the country’s sovereignty has been compromised due to reliance on foreign aid, loans and credits. The parliamentary democracy and reliance on local resources, he argues, are essential for Pakistan’s economic sustainability.

An FBR report that Mr Shirazi cites, confirms that the underground economy constitutes 79 per cent of the official economy. Thus just 21 per cent of the economy pays taxes, and the annual revenues realized are a mere Rs2 trillion.

If the remaining 79 per cent of income hidden away from the tax man is somehow discovered and documented, the additional revenue of Rs8 trillion would be more than sufficient to do away with the perennial begging bowl of foreign aid and reliance on the IMF and the World Bank for funding not just our mega projects but to pay back previous loans – as is the case now.

Mr Shirazi recommends revamping of the customs and sales tax departments to ensure strong administration and avoid over- and under-invoicing that deprives the industry of fair competition and the country of valuable revenues.

Mr Shirazi states that Pakistanis are one of the most charitable people. Not a vague statement this, for he backs it up with the figure of five per cent of the GDP that goes into donations. While this makes Pakistan one of the most charitable countries in the world, the author points out, yet curiously, the very same people refuse to pay taxes. This reluctance to pay taxes, Mr Shirazi argues, is a grave issue which the government must overcome.

His solution: the trust deficit between the government and the taxpayer has to be reduced so the taxpayers pay what they owe in the knowledge that each of his or her tax rupee paid will be spent in helping the country achieve economic independence, sustainability and growth.

Mr Shirazi emphasizes that prosperity cannot be ensured without investment, leading to higher levels of production and an export orientation. This and this alone will ensure employment and earn foreign exchange for the country, saving it from the Shylockian clutches of the international finance institutions.

Gleaning through the book, it is clear that the author truly believes in the independence and separation of powers of the three branches of government: the parliament, the executive and the judiciary. Politicians should be concerned with making policies, the executives entrusted with implementation and judiciary for adjudication.

He has a high view of the Pakistani bureaucracy, but it should be recruited on merit, with integrity and a strong value system inculcated, and, on top of it, must be shielded from politicization.

Cumulatively Mr Shirazi recommends that these measures, principally, will not just amount to safeguarding sovereignty of the country but will also lead to dignity and respect in the comity of nations.

Safeguarding Sovreignty - Yousuf H Shirazi Book Cover

Safeguarding Sovereignty

A collection of articles and interviews

By Yusuf H Shirazi

Publisher: Ferozsons (Pvt) Ltd.

Pages: 269; Price: Rs895/-

Sajid Khan Lodhy is a journalist. He corresponds at [email protected] and tweets @sajidsadeem