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March 31, 2020

Incompetent governments choose vendetta over humanity


March 31, 2020

LAHORE: For competent governments coronavirus is a challenge that they are trying to tackle with utmost sincerity, but for incompetent ones this virus is an opportunity to use it as a scapegoat for added miseries faced by the public.

General public in those economies that handled their affairs prudently felt improvement in their finances before the virus attacked the globe. The pandemic thereafter engulfed the entire globe and economic activities nosedived everywhere.

The jobless rates increased in every country and shortage of healthcare facilities was also witnessed everywhere. However, competent governments always have contingent funds available to tackle any emergencies. Like all states, they need approvals for additional funds that takes at least few weeks for assessing the required financing and final approval by the competent authority.

The well planned and prudent governments in the meantime use the contingency funds to start immediate relief. Incompetent governments on the other hand are always short of resources, as the incompetence comes from flawed planning. They operate in fire fighting mode even in normal circumstances and are ill-prepared to tackle any emergency.

They, in fact do not have resources to fall back upon. They have to reallocate the resources from other sectors to tackle the problem. Because of the incompetence, decision making in these governments is also very slow. In Pakistan, the bureaucracy that is instrumental in taking and implementing decisions speedily has been cowed down during the past one and a half year.

They have stopped using their quick decision-making powers because of repercussions they could face from the National Accountability Bureau or other accountability agencies. In emergencies, one has to make quick decisions. If some instrument is available from a local supplier in ready stock, they, in case of emergency would procure it even if the quoted price is 5-10 percent higher.

This is done to provide immediate relief to the distressed people. They may buy ventilators at Rs5,000 higher price on immediate delivery instead of going through the procedure of calling quotations.

Saving life is more precious than a paltry sum of Rs5,000. Of course they should procure minimum needed quantity, and go for regular procedures for the rest. In Pakistan, no bureaucrat dared to bypass the rules that they did during the 2005 earthquake and 2010 heavy floods. This is the reason that the things are moving very slowly.

Relief work is suffering badly. We badly need proper quarantine at all entry points in Pakistan. In many cases, facilities have been approved, but the necessary finances are still not available. The prime minister announced a big relief package about a week back.

It has still not been approved by the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the federal cabinet. This committee should have met last week, but it is meeting on Monday almost a week after the announcement of the relief package.

Advisor to the prime minister on finance was present at the press conference where this package was announced. After the approval of ECC, the package would have to be approved by the federal cabinet.

After this approval it is necessary to issue a notification on each part of the package that might take from one to several weeks. One fails to understand that in view of extreme emergency why all these procedures could not be completed in one day?

During emergencies, prudent governments suspend regular activities and solely concentrate on tackling the situation to provide as much relief as possible to the masses. They go soft on prisoners as well.

They do not oppose bails of people kept in jails for months together nor do they open fresh cases against persons that the NAB kept in lock up for over a year.

These steps deviate the attention from the welfare work badly needed in the country. Keeping Mir Shakilur Rehman under custody should not be the priority of the state or NAB at this time.

The case buried for 34 years could wait till this virus threat is tackled. He is prepared to fight it out in the court of law. Why deny him bail?

This is not time for personal vendetta. In fact, by keeping high profile personalities in lock up they are exposing them to the viral infection and at the same time depriving the society of individuals that if free could have initiated relief works for the poor community. The government should show its humane face in this national emergency.