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April 21, 2019

‘Feudal lords a hindrance to economic development’


April 21, 2019

The feudals, with all the clout they wield, are virtually the rulers in the rural areas and manage to have all the prized land allotted to them.

This was stated by Dr Ishrat Husain, former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan and former Director, Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Karachi University, and currently adviser on institutional reforms and austerity to the Prime Minister.

He was in conversation with Dr Farrukh Iqbal, current director of the IBA, at the IBA’s city campus on Saturday afternoon with reference to his recently published book, “The Economy of Modern Sindh: Opportunities Lost and Lessons for the Future”, co-authored by Aijaz Qureshi and Nadeem Hussain.

“It is a pity that we’ve not been able to devise a viable method of equitable distribution of water with the result that the small farmer suffers,” he said.

“All the land in the riparian areas goes to the influential feudal lord” because of his connections right to the top, he said.

The former SBP governor said that if the small and medium scale farmers were to have their due share of water, things would be much more positive as regards agricultural production. “Today, anything in the areas (riparian and non-riparian) has a deep impact on the provincial economy,” he said. The influential landlord exercises such clout that even state functionaries like the police of the area and the revenue officials are all at his beck and call, he added.

In reply to a question about the water issue, Dr Husain said, “We have so many plans but we lack the implementation mechanism.”

As for land reforms, he said that these could not help. For land reforms, he said, you have to have contiguous land, not fragmented units. In reply to a question about the feasibility of dams, he said these would not mitigate our problem as they were a very expensive and time-consuming proposition.

He said that if somehow we could devise means to prevent the wastage of water that finds its way into the sea, we would not need to think of dams. As for the economy of Sindh, it was clearly divided into two portions, rural and urban.

As regards rural Sindh, he said that we had the problems of water apportionment and poverty, while in the urban sector we had social problems like the arms proliferation and other social problems like law and order which hit the economic development programmes. Besides, he said, most of the employment was to be found in the urban areas with the result that people migrated to the urban areas in search of greener pastures thus, apart from other things, disturbing balance in a place which was already struggling with civic issues and creating social issues. Sindh’s relative position in the national economy has been declining vis-à-vis the other provinces, so is its share in the nation’s GDP (Gross Domestic product).

Dr Husain said that we had to trust the local communities as they were the ones who could best decide the course of action, being directly affected. In this context, he underlined the importance of local bodies and giving them a key role in the issues. It has to be democracy at the grassroots level, he said.

“It is a failure of our institutions,” he said and pointed to the “auction” of police stations. The quality of teaching, he said, had also deteriorated. But his assessment of the situation was not totally pessimistic. “We have a highly trained manpower but we have to find ways of gainfully utilising it.”

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