Money Matters

Elusive fair play

Money Matters
By Mansoor Ahmad
Mon, 01, 22

Bad governance is the root cause of human miseries in Pakistan. Bribe is not the only corruption. Incompetence in public office impacts people financially. Appointments without merit deprive the person with the right credentials.

Elusive fair play

Bad governance is the root cause of human miseries in Pakistan. Bribe is not the only corruption. Incompetence in public office impacts people financially. Appointments without merit deprive the person with the right credentials.

Pakistanis have been yearning for decades to see a transparent and competent government. Unfortunately, the governance level has remained very low throughout. Small violations of law have a very high cumulative economic cost.

Governance level has deteriorated during the tenures of some governments and slightly improved in the tenures of some others. Nevertheless, the general public at large, has become immune to corrupt practices.

If they somehow meet police, they know that the only way out is to pay some bribe or use some influence. Even genuine reports of theft or fraud need the greasing of palms to initiate investigation in a real sense.

Getting electricity where it is available is the right of the citizens, but for some, the procedure from filing an application to getting the power, may take six months. At the same time, the neighbour next-door with the right connections or the power of money will get it within a week or less. There is no transparency in the way most of the bureaucrats work.

Daily traffic jams upset the schedule of employees, students and businessmen resulting in higher fuel charges and opportunities lost due to unnecessary delays. Building plans of industry are delayed or approved at a cost. In case of delay, it results in delayed start of an economic activity that was likely to create new jobs.

Thus irregularities, corruption and poor governance remain constant. Violations go unpunished, whether in the industrial sector, in a corporate, or on the roads here and there. Law enforcers look the other way on many violations.

We see motorcycles parked on footpaths forcing the pedestrians to risk their life by walking on busy roads. There are many roads in all cities where one-way violations are tolerated by the police (mostly without extracting any rent). Traffic violation challans are mostly subject to prior negotiations or just a phone call of some higher up asking to let the violator go.

The police are not bothered even if the traffic flow stops or slows down when they stop a truck at signal for some traffic violation. Encroachments on the roads and in markets are allowed at a rent.

Public at large is at the mercy of the government servants. A complaint against power failure will be entertained promptly if you please the linemen who visit your premises for repair.

In fact, the linemen served well will give you their mobile phone number so that you can contact them directly when a problem occurs. Same goes for other utility services, be it water supply, gas pipelines, or telephone connections. These are petty daily life facts that all citizens come across. This rent seeking culture is the main reason for the plight of the poor, who lack resources to pay bribes. This is the reason that sewerage in slums flood the streets (small paths) for weeks and months, while any leakage of sewer in posh or affluent localities is attended promptly.

Road infrastructure in poor localities remains in shambles because the residents have no voice, while the roads in well to do localities remain in good shape and are re-carpeted before any damage is done.

Lack of sanitation and proper road infrastructure has high negative impact on those who survive on bare minimum.

It also impacts the productivity of the poor. Their health remains at risk when they and their children walk through sewerage infested with germs and mosquitoes, while traveling on bumpy roads saps their energy, apart from giving joint pain and other health issues.

The absence of rule of law is the main reason for all ills. The law is applied unevenly. For the poor, the application is prompt and for the influential application is delayed providing him/her the opportunity to seek a pre-arrest bail.

A petty thief lingers in lock-up for months before getting a sentence that was shorter than the time spent in lockup. Those committing frauds in millions fight their case in the courts and through their influence manage to make the cases linger for years or decades.

The courts have still not set priorities to take up the cases on a first come first serve basis. Some new cases get priority, and the older ones wait for their turn for years.

Justice delayed is justice denied. It is particularly true for cases involving finances. The cases of bank defaults are delayed for decades after which the defaulters themselves ask the courts to auction their mortgaged assets. The value of these assets in the meantime increases many times the amount of their default. In the end, they pocket more than the banks.

The law says that the interest is suspended, and the banks just get the defaulted amount after a decade or two. The delays in cases force many property holders to go for out of court settlement, paying their defaulting occupants on rent, hefty amounts to get the property vacated. Life is full of such instances here, just because we continue with bad governance.

To improve the situation, those elected to take decisions, must bring about changes not only in the system, but in the attitudes of bureaucrats, public servants, and the public too. Laws should not just be presented and passed, laws need to be implemented too and improved as well for the benefit of the society.

The writer is a staff member