“Pakistan can only attain fiscal discipline through domestic revenue mobilisation. Sindh’s own source tax revenue has huge potential; the province has the capacity to increase its revenue four times the current level.”
This was said by Nadeem Hussain on Saturday during a talk on ‘The Economy of Modern Sindh: Opportunities Lost and Lessons for the Future’ — authored by Dr Ishrat Husain, Prof Aijaz A Qureshi and Nadeem Hussain — in a jam-packed auditorium of the University of Sindh, Thatta campus. The talk was moderated by Imtiaz Ali.
Responding to a question on what made him and his colleagues write this book, Prof Aijaz A Qureshi said: “Dr Ishrat Husain, who comes from Hyderabad and received his early education there, wanted to pay his gratitude to this province and its people.
“He had written a book on the same subject back in 1981, but there has been no book on Sindh’s economy since then, so he wanted to educate the people of Sindh on what went wrong and the growth prospects for the future; hence, this book.”
University of Sindh Thatta campus Pro-Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Sarfaraz Solangi said: “Our campus is grateful to the authors for sharing this wonderful academic treasure with our students and faculty.”
On a question regarding the recently presented Rs1.217 trillion Sindh budget, Nadeem Hussain said: “We have seen an allocation of Rs12.3 billion for social protection and poverty reduction in the upcoming financial year 2019-20 budget. This is a step in the right direction. Social spending is pivotal for an inclusive and sustainable growth. We need to spend on our women and children.”
Social activist Masroor Ali Shah said: “Political patronage and kinship are primary causes of Sindh’s under performance as compared to Punjab, which has improved very recently. The society needs to produce thought leaders and local political theorists. How long would we rely on the philosophy of GM Syed and Rasool Bux Palejo?”
Prof Aijaz A Qureshi said: “The rich and powerful class of landlords enjoying large concentration of wealth and income and a poor deprived peasant population subservient and dependent on this class has created difficulties in terms of economic efficiency, equity, democratic governance and capture of state institutions.
“Concentration of land ownership in Sindh is getting diluted with the passage of time because of inheritance laws, but large landowners in the rural areas of Sindh still continue to exercise disproportionate influence both on politics as well as on the agrarian economy. They own not only lands but also the people who work on them.”
Dr Ishrat Husain said: “The IMF might avert a balance of payment crisis for now, but for sustainability, we need to work on domestic productivity. A mismatch between the skills required in the job market and the education being imparted in our universities need to be addressed.
“Thirty-four public universities and degree awarding institutions in Sindh should be engaged in a research that is sellable in the market. The institutes of higher learning should become financially self-sustainable.”
Answering a question, Prof Aijaz A Qureshi said: “Land reforms in the 1960s and 1970s did not make much of a dent on the landholding pattern and effective control by large families. The legacy of feudal dominance by large landowners is, however, not weakening at the same pace as dilution of land ownership because of the nexus between the state and big landlords.
“Political parties seek the help of these landlords at the time of elections and as a quid pro quo they oblige these landlords once they assume power. The patronage-client relationship reinforces political power with access to economic resource and institutions.
“The province of Sindh, the highest urbanised area of the country and being lower riparian, faces heightened risks. Public policy changes, investments and institutional renewal are needed to avert this slowdown.
“Food security, adequate nutrition of children, rural income formation and employment are likely to be adversely affected unless reforms in agriculture policy and institutions are made and investment in agriculture research and water infrastructure are undertaken.”