Short-term gains to whose avail?

  • Government and opposition must focus on policy


The rise of Neo-liberalism at the back of strengthening collusion between political and economic elites, and their resulting ability to design and evolve institutions– national and international– that has enabled continual strengthening of relationship between money and power over time, on one side, and through extraction of resources from the many to the few, allowing elites representing such evolved power-centres to instil economic insecurities of the nature among people that they apparently are losing faith in being a horse of the long race on the path of justice and valuing the long-term sustainable rewards it brings, on the other hand.

This has resulted in an ever-increasing resort of individuals and institutional behaviours or designs to look for short-term selfish gains. The problem is that such gains cannot stand the test of time, and the history of failures and misery continues to repeat itself; albeit with greater force each time over. It is indeed overdue to check this snow-ball effect, before it is too late, since individual families cannot sustainably operate like this, let alone states.

When the new government came into power over eight months ago, it was thought that in their vision of this Naya Pakistan, a long-term policy statement will be announced by each ministry, which would highlight both the issues at hand in each sector, and what path recovery would take. Unfortunately, no federal or provincial ministry did this. Even in the Finance Ministry, Asad Umar was not able to give an overall account of past policies that did not allow taking a long-term sustainable future approach. For instance, it was not indicated how subsidies would be rationalised, and taxes transitioned from their unfair and unsustainable spread from indirect taxes to direct. There was no wholesome and long-term plan for coming out of the balance of payments crisis, not an effort to mould the economic institutions so that a sustainable trajectory could be followed to fix institutions, organisations, markets, macroeconomic imbalances, equity, poverty and growth concerns.

A cursory look at the rising level of poverty and inequality on one hand, and low ranking of the country in important indices indicate that the storm that brings such revolutions could gather anytime here

At the same time, the government showed no concern to attack the wrong philosophical underpinnings of development issues so as to bring the correct amount of regulatory check on private and public sectors, and what features, for example, of the Nordic social democracies will be adopted in negotiating both the programme with the IMF, and in overall policies. People follow the vision instilled by a leader, who makes it a point to inspire confidence in state authorities by charting a plan for their improvement and ensuring that they delivering results accordingly. While the overall vision has to come from the PM, which did somewhat, the detailed policy plan needed to come from each minister. That never came. Was the vision of Pakistan not announced- both overall and in detail- before the struggle could be made over some years for independence? Indeed it did; so where is the overall and detailed vision for the New Pakistan?

If the government was not giving such a vision, it should have come from the opposition. While the government remained docile in its conviction to bring change, the opposition did not seem to have the heart that cares about issues that have burdened the people with a mountain of miseries.

Look at the Sindh provincial government’s performance in health and education, at the severe lapses in the system to check such basic things as holding exams properly, or improving the status of food control authorities and performance of private and public hospitals.

Yet PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is consumed in dishing out self-serving, short-sighted, diatribes in Parliament. Should he not be using this time to say something constructive for the overall federal policy? Should he not be spending endless hours in fixing the severe issues in his own province? Rather than being more concerned about taking to task those behind such poor performance, he is concerned in spending time on mostly trivial matters concerned with politicking. Do these politicians not hear the screams of the voters whom they trample while marching forward on the elephant of power politics?

Yet unlike the developed countries like the UK, where the opposition has made such an active contribution on Brexit, the opposition here consumes its time in creating immature ruckuses in Parliament; under the overall ambition of blackmailing the government’s support away from it- Lacunas in that approach should be identified and made an agenda item by opposition’s well focused, meaningful input to the overall accountability process.

What does it show, if not the inability or even desire of the opposition to correct their self-serving focus from the time they were in power, to concentrating on issues affecting the masses. In turn, when the economy stands awash with multifarious challenges inherited by this government, only to perpetuate them further by lack of wholesome policy approach and timely decision-making from Mr Asad Umar, the opposition in Parliament, even in the current session, has no serious policy to contribute for ending the numerous miseries affecting the people.

On top of that, the media, which is referred to as the fourth pillar of the state, remains consumed in amply airing and holding talk-shows on such immature discourse in Parliament of point-scoring nature. Should this be the focus of a) the government- giving replies to insignificant diatribe of the opposition, while bringing no long-term and wholesome vision and policy, b) the opposition- hurling mostly meaningless propaganda at the government, and mainly on issues that are either trivial or are related directly to the accountability cases of the who’s who of their respective parties, but not coming up with any meaningful policy vision, and c) the media- that holds ratings above all.

To all three above, what will their short-term gains of power and money ensure, if the state continues to weaken, and if they do not think about meeting the criterion of accountability that falls on their shoulders as representatives of popular sovereignty. What long-term gain they will get? Do they not remember the reasons behind the French, Bolshevik or Iranian revolutions? A cursory look at the rising level of poverty and inequality on one hand, and low ranking of the country in important indices as the Misery Index, or the Energy Transition on the other, will amply indicate that the storm that brings such revolutions could gather anytime here.

The outcome of their short-sighted gains is that while they remain under the illusion that these short-term gains fortify their lives against misery, the reality is that the fire they spread in others’ homes, can reach them at any time. It is only in the long-term gain of all that the individual will also feel sustained merits, while short of that is what has been happening- from one crisis to the other, if history is anything to learn from.