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February 15, 2018

Economy going around in circles


February 15, 2018


LAHORE: Strong economies not only have better chances of braving crises, surviving disasters, and seeing their people through the worst of recessions, but they also have a heavier say in the affairs of the world for demonstrable reasons.

On the other hand, weak economies are forced to take diktats from big ones, which in some cases directly or indirectly meddle in those countries’ internal affairs from implanting their handpicked officials at key positions to overthrowing governments. Thus, their say carries almost no weight at any world forum.

Economies cannot be destroyed by a few individuals that make money through unlawful means. But when the majority joins the looters then it is impossible pursue a sustained growth path.

China achieved economic turnaround on sustained high growth for over 30 years, India flourished for two decades, and Bangladesh addressed its poverty issues through a well-planned and dedicated growth path.

In Pakistan we see lopsided growth. We have never sustained a growth momentum for even one decade. Our economy rises at reasonable speed for few years and then falls low enough to completely offset the gains made a few years back. This is evident from the fact the per capita income in India and Bangladesh is higher than Pakistan, although the country enjoyed better per capita GDP than both neighbours only two decades back.

Our nuclear deterrent is keeping our enemies from abroad at bay but we do not have any deterrent to keep the enemies of economy at bay. The corrupt and the selfish are the real enemies. When we evade taxes we in fact ensure the revenue needed for development, education and health remains scarce.

When civil society remains silent on tax evasion but sings evaders’ praises for their wealth, which is ill-gotten, then it in fact becomes an accomplice in crime to undermine the economy. The civil society is at loss to identify enemies of economy in its ranks. They should equate with terrorists the tax evaders, smugglers, hoarders, bribers, power/gas pilferers, and dacoits and robbers.

Pakistanis pass through periods of glee and dismay owing to the country’s lopsided growth, going on for years. They should realize that all is not well even if economy is moving up. They should also look at general social indicators in any given business. Only then, they will realise these issues are as bad as terrorism. The terrorists destroy lives and property.

The absentee or indifferent doctors at hospital and clinics are responsible for many deaths caused by their negligence. The absentee teachers are depriving the children of knowledge, which is so vital for prosperity in 21st century. The rampant corruption in the country still dents economy more than the damage caused by terror attacks.

Economy does not flourish in societies where governance is poor. We generally conceive that satisfactory law and order situation indicates the control of the state on its affairs. What we fail to understand is that the government has to exert its writ on economic affairs as well. The rampant tax evasion in the country is indicative of the fact that successive governments in Pakistan abdicated their right to collect fair revenues and pave way for sustained increase in inequality.

Social injustice and economic deprivation breeds discontent that could in extreme cases lead to terrorism. All sensible governments ensure that at least food is available to the common man at affordable rates because a hungry man is more dangerous than any hardened criminal. However when hoarding of food items is tolerated by the state, then hoarders set the prices according to their interests, which of course can never be in the interest of a large section of society. All this is happening in Pakistan right now.

Economy is the key to peace, harmony and prosperity. Economic progress is the only possible under a responsible government that takes decision on merit instead of political influence. A government that is accountable for all its deeds. Sustained economic growth is possible under a government that has the courage and determination to ensure rule of law for all segments of society irrespective of their wealth status.

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