Going in the wrong direction

December 23, 2022

LAHORE: We have capable financial experts who are aware of the drawbacks that keep real growth away from Pakistan, but capability is no substitute for sincerity. We cannot progress economically till...

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LAHORE: We have capable financial experts who are aware of the drawbacks that keep real growth away from Pakistan, but capability is no substitute for sincerity. We cannot progress economically till these experts continue to compromise to please vested interest.

The vested interests could be the political party these experts belong to, the bureaucrats they listen to or the businesses that seek individual or sector specific concessions.

For decades these financial wizards have been compromising on basic economic principles which has brought our country to the current level.

We are managing this country with the most lethal combination of corruption, inefficiency, and illiteracy. Each factor is a recipe for economic disaster and is the reason for our economic debacle.

Inefficiencies in our institutions are mainly because incompetence has crept in our systems as the manpower the state engages is appointed without merit and qualification through corrupt practices. Contracts are awarded by taking kickbacks, which compromises the efficiency, quality and reliability of the projects.

Compromises to please vested interests have weakened our state institutions that operate on the whims and wishes of the men in power instead of following the laid down rules. There are many countries where the corruption level is almost the same as in Pakistan, but the institutions in those countries are strong and their industries efficient.

Leaders in these countries do tolerate corrupt practices, but let the institutions operate independently. These regulatory institutions go by the rules and regulations.

They are a source of strength for the businesses and provide them with a level playing field. Industries operate efficiently when there is a level playing field and manufacturers have to compete with each other on quality and rates. In a competitive environment, none is accorded any special concession or exemptions.

We hide true statistics from the electorate. We for instance boast the literacy rate in Pakistan is over 60 percent. In reality we are basically an illiterate society because our criteria for literacy is flawed and has been adopted for political purposes only.

According to this criterion, any person who can read or write his name and few basic things is considered literate. But what is the use of this literacy standard when you cannot impart higher skills on their rudimentary literacy.

Pakistan will remain a low skill and low productivity country until its education system is improved.

Our governments continue to adopt public appeasing measures. This is the reason that instead of imparting meaningful education and skills, all governments continue to waste hundreds of billions on Benazir Income Support Programme, making a large portion of the poor and illiterate population dependent on government dole outs.

With the same amount we could have established a web of skill and vocational institutions to impart market need-based training.

After training, most of the poor currently living on dole outs would become breadwinners for their families.

Governance reforms have been suggested by many experts, but ignored or diluted by all regimes. There is no rationale for appointments at posts where expertise is needed.

We will often see a medical doctor serving as a police officer or in the Federal Board of Revenue, while the head of a health department would be a bureaucrat specialised in fine arts.

An engineer might be heading the ministry of arts and culture. The promotion system is on auto mode that sees seniority, and not the basic qualification of a bureaucrat. The fact that doctors, engineers and PhDs are preferring higher civil services points to the fact that perks, salaries and powers and promotions are much better than in their own fields. Globally better qualified persons have better opportunities.

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