Pakistan survived in 1947 when we had no resources, we embarked on a growth path despite 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars. The devastations caused by floods and the earthquake in 2005 did not dent our spirit, because the nation was united.
This time around we are much better off than 1947, no external aggression or natural disaster has impacted us, but we are in despair only because the nation is deeply divided. In earlier events, no one questioned the loyalty of half the electorate or majority of the elected representatives.
Nations have been built from ruins through dedication and brotherhood. The World War I destroyed Germany, but it regained its strength by the time World War II started.
Germany and Japan were completely ruined after the Second World War, but emerged in less than two decades as powers to be reckoned with. Again, the only factor was the unity and determination of those nations to prove their worth.
The Pakistani nation does not lack resources to move ahead. It simply lacks the leadership needed to harness its potential. Every party active in politics has tasted power at one time or the other.
When in power, these parties had the mandate to take action to bring about massive improvement in the economy and social indicators. However, none of these governments confronted cartels, manipulators, or speculators’ that played havoc with the economy.
Instead, the politicians whether those in power or in opposition, obtain funding from smugglers, builders, stock barons, and cartels to pursue their respective conflicting agendas. The net result is that the common man is left at the mercy of these fund providers, who continue to exploit them.
In all this, the charter of economy remains a dream. Having a charter of economy would mean restrictions on getting favour from the many smugglers, cartels and mafias.
To keep everyone diverted from this aspect, political parties remain occupied in maligning each other. Each of these parties holds their opponent responsible for the economic and social malice that plagues the common man. By such tactics, the parties ensure that the status quo is maintained, and those with vested interest continue to operate unhindered.
But to do that, there has to be a will too. Pakistan is a state with huge resources. Our problems would be resolved in a short time only if the politicians form an alliance to eradicate all types of corruption and nab tax evaders.
Signing a charter of economy to achieve that should be one of the top priorities of all political parties. They should put their rivalry and bickering aside to come on the same page for the nation’s economic and social well-being. For without that, no sustainable development was possible.
If such a task is achieved, our tax revenue would double, and many of our problems would be resolved. With double tax revenue, the country would not need to go to any foreign or domestic lenders. We would not be subject to harsh conditions that are often put in place by donor agencies for bailout packages.
However, to achieve this, the politicians must forgo personal interests. They should implement reforms without favouritism and with full transparency. If favours are to be given to industries, those should not be unconditional. All favours should be conditional to performance and achievement of given targets. None should be given unconditional favours. When reforms are truly implemented with the cooperation of all political parties there would be both, winners and losers.
If the reforms pay off immediately, the political party in power would be the first beneficiary. Political parties in opposition would benefit from the reforms, if they took time and brought miseries and pains for the electorate in immediate terms.
But no matter the case, whether the reforms benefit immediately or after some time, the country and the people would benefit.
Need of the hour now is to think above petty personal gains. The economy should not be put at stake to gain some political points. Politicians should not mingle politics with the economy.
Selective prosecution on corruption charges breeds nepotism. Corruption of all types should be held accountable. Whether those who commit supply versus demand corruption, grand versus petty corruption, conventional versus unconventional corruption and public versus private corruption.
Hoarding is also not possible if there are proper checks and balances in the markets. Price manipulation, cartelisation, and other malpractices cannot happen without the connivance of someone in the power corridors.
Corruption and tax evasion remain the major menaces that impede our country’s growth prospects. Tax evasion occurs because someone in the tax office abates with tax evaders against some rent (the rent is many times lower than the benefit tax evaders get).
Smuggling again is not possible without the connivance of the officials. Under reporting of production or under-invoicing of imports occurs because of corruption. The red tape is another form of corruption. The tape is reduced if the right officials at each stage are properly bribed.
We badly need all politicians on one page to achieve transparency and fair play in our economic affairs.
The writer is a staff member