Popcorn democracy

  • The outcome of Elections 2018 does not promise quality

Pakistan’s external debt rocketed to $91.8b in May 2018. This is an increase of over 50pc in past four years. In terms of money it works out to nearly $31 billion as per figures released by the State Bank of Pakistan.

PML-N since June 2013 accumulated a staggering $42.6 billion in external loans that has piled up as the government has utterly failed in implementing robust policies to encourage inflows not relating to debt accumulation. As a result Pakistan’s gross external financing requirements swam up from $17.2 billion to $24 billion.

Pakistan is therefore facing yet again an IMF bailout owing to incompetency, lack of vision and failure to develop short, medium and long term fiscal policies. Due to a high quantum of borrowing both at domestic and foreign levels, debt servicing will eat up the major part of the federal budget calculated to be Rs1.62 trillion for year 2018-9.

The foreign reserves have fallen to the lowest in the last three years. This has led to multiple rupee devaluations in 2018 with an upward swing in interest rates. One also wonders exactly how Pakistan plans to pay back millions in dollars to China. This is another looming question.

The steep oil price increase with Pakistan being a large importer has further put pressure on the national exchequer as Pakistan imports 80pc of oil need.

According to an IMF Report, Pakistan’s debt challenge will rise to $103b by June 2019. “In its post-programme monitoring report, the IMF also forecast that due to additional borrowings, Pakistan’s external debt would jump to $103.4 billion by June 2019, up from this June’s projected level of $93.3 billion.”  (March 16, 2018)

There is a democratic deficit within the political cadres of political parties that have stopped them from evolving into a party with people of strong professional and work backgrounds

It said continued scaling up of CPEC investments could accelerate the build-up of related external payment obligations, adding Pakistan’s capacity to repay could deteriorate at a faster pace, with faster depletion of foreign exchange reserves having adverse effects on economic growth.

If one views a starkly disastrous economic situation, one can only be deeply distressed at the sheer incompetency by the political parties to present any plan in their manifestos to deal with this situation.

The economic manifestos by PPP, PTI and PML-N are narrow in their approach focusing on issues dealing with packages to farmers, bringing cost of business for farmers down so on and so forth. None are focusing on the bigger picture. The elephant in the China Room. Job creation and improving the economic productivity of the country may be a major springboard but the exact dynamics to achieve this in light of a looming debt situation and ability to invest in projects at the cost of debt servicing to balance both on the ledger is missing.

Corruption is a big point on political parties’ agendas. ‘Imran Khan has claimed that his party would properly utilise the taxpayers’ money in a bid to ensure that corruption is eliminated from the country as well take steps to “recover looted national wealth parked in offshore tax havens.” (Jul 19, 2018: Saumya Trivedi) The point that needs clarification is that our laws do not apply abroad. Bringing back anything parked abroad illegally via corrupted individuals require legal spadework, evidences and cooperation of countries from where it has to be retrieved.

Democracy in Pakistan has been a farce in the garb of dynastocracy and one man show. The voter is illiterate, economically dependent on a master and thereby forced to toe a line and/or so removed in terms of awareness from bigger issues facing the nation that the outcome of their choice can only spell more misery.

PML-N is no favourite in the running for 2018 elections though they will bag their share, though lesser. PTI has accumulated a lot of rolling stones; this coupled with no grassroots work will get them seats but does not look like a clean sweep. PPP is once again side lined to rural Sindh. Independents who win will decide to jump the fence to whichever side the grass is greener. The result will be or seems to be a hotch-potch of a government, blue-eyed and incompetents with no focus on the crucial issues that need immediate address.

There is a democratic deficit within the political cadres of political parties that have stopped them from evolving into a party with people of strong professional and work backgrounds. When this gap is created it provides space for other institutions to take over the space. The political parties are not reliant. Even PTI has collected “electable” to win seats. With the same old wine in bottles the results will be the same.

The outcome of Elections 2018 does not promise quality. Yes has the option of NOTA been added on the ballot paper a cleansing would have started but offering a choice between two weak candidates hailing from platforms that lack vision is equal to a weak outcome.

So what must the voters do?

Probably the best choice is to do homework on the candidates of their constituencies and vote for the best one.