close
Monday April 15, 2024

Future reforms

Not only is our economy in a mess, but the governance is at the lowest ebb ever

By Mansoor Ahmad
February 28, 2024
Containers are loaded onto trucks at the seaport terminal DIT Duisburg Intermodal Terminal at the Duisburg harbour on July 13, 2023. — AFP
Containers are loaded onto trucks at the seaport terminal DIT Duisburg Intermodal Terminal at the Duisburg harbour on July 13, 2023. — AFP

LAHORE: The next government will inherit high inflation, unmanageable debt servicing, very low foreign exchange reserves and many vital international issues, while the expectations of people from it are much higher than its capacity to deliver.

Every political party is fully aware of the precarious position Pakistan is in; yet the politicians raised the expectations of the electorate too high, promising them everything from high salaries to top class education and excellent health care. Unfortunately,they did not come up with a solid plan to fulfill these promises. No government can fulfill the wishes of the electorate with empty coffers.

Not only is our economy in a mess, but the governance is at the lowest ebb ever. Ignoring the violation of laws and rules has become a norm in our country. Lives of the masses could improve if any government mustered the courage to fully implement the existing laws and make law or rule breakers accountable. No government dares to go by the book because the law breakers are also within its ranks as well. You cannot punish some for overstepping the law when you strongly protect the similar law breakers within your own ranks.

It is pertinent to note that every elected government is composed of assembly members from the same families that have been ruling the country for decades. They belong to the elite class and they are reluctant to share the burden of the poor.

As the time passes by, the gap between the expenses and the revenue is widening. No government can deliver on its election promises without plugging this gap. Each leader of the big parties uses private planes for travel and lives in lavish houses that the richest person would be proud to live in. Still, the system allows them to pay lower taxes than even some salaried persons. The elected governments fail to live up to their promises because the elected elite that are beneficiaries of the system do not want any change or improvement that deprives them of their privileges.

We badly need more tax revenues to plug the huge fiscal gap, which is so huge that it would require years and strict governance to balance the income expenditure gap. Unfortunately, we have witnessed that all political parties that ruled Pakistan in the past have shied away from privatizing public sector loss making enterprises. If we eliminate those losses,the fiscal gap will be hugely narrowed. But privatizing public sector companies needs guts that a lot of politicians’ lack.

Any government that assumes power in Pakistan can deliver, even if it implements the existing policies in letter and spirit. If current environmental laws, for instance, are fully implemented, it would improve our water channels, reduce emissions caused by factories and vehicles. This would ultimately improve the health of the nation. There would be a drastic reduction in airborne and waterborne diseases. The productivity of the labor would improve, as would the learning abilities of children. Currently, a rickshaw driver is challaned if his rickshaw emits smoke, but the factories that openly pollute the sky with thick smoke are allowed to operate. The mill owners throw their polluted waste in the clean water channels without fear of law.

The caretaker government has gone beyond its mandate in taking some vital and difficult decisions. This has spared the new government from taking decisions that directly hurt the poor. The next reforms would mostly hurt the rich and influential, which are aplenty in the ruling coalition. Will they allow the government to take decisions against their interests?