Saturday December 02, 2023

A lack of trust

February 25, 2022

LAHORE: The trust deficit between the government and the people and the lack of trust within the government institutions has converted our country into a nonfunctional state.

Parties assume power after promising the moon to the electorate, but usually fail to even create good feelings. They know even before coming to power that the country lacks resources to fulfill their promises.

They vow to bring power rates down in election rallies and do the opposite when in power. They promise to keep the rates of petroleum products stable without realising that Pakistan is a net importer of this commodity, and its prices are determined by crude oil prices in the global markets.

They promise appointments on merit and posting and transfers without political interference, but when in power they do the opposite. There is a gap between the expectations of the people and the capacity of the government to deliver. This gap deficit is enlarging with every passing day.

Promises made about trade and industry are also not kept as those promises are made without proper homework. Businessmen do not trust these commitments.

Even the long-term sector-specific policies are tinkered with several times that disturbs business plans of the investors. There is no coordination between different departments of the government.

The Ministry of Commerce may promise smooth supply of power and gas to the industries, but the actual execution is in the hands of ministries of power and energy. They may change their priorities in case of short or erratic supplies in favour of domestic consumers or some specific industrial sector.

Ideally all the issues related to industries should be resolved by the ministry of industries. But for power supply, each industrialist keeps a direct liaison with the concerned power distribution company and the two gas distribution companies to ensure smooth supplies.

The Ministry of Finance can withhold promised payments to various service ministries that jeopardises their service plans for the industries.

This is the reason that each industry and in some cases sector-specific trade associations lobby their cases in all state institutions by using influence or money. Those that fail to do so, suffer.

Common man generally does not trust politicians or the government. Police for instance are there to ensure their security, but they feel insecure whenever they see a policeman in front of them.

How can they trust the judicial system when litigation lingers for years and decades in courts? In case of power failure, they must please the concerned official for quick repairs.

Traffic violation challans can be avoided by greasing the palms of traffic police. This shows the lack of government writ. The government lost its writ because it fails to implement its plans and policies because of weak political will.

Another trust deficit that has emerged in recent years is the failure of the state to fulfill its sovereign commitments to numerous investors. The power sector is plagued with regular failure of the state to make timely payments to the power producers.

Banks are now reluctant to finance power projects, because the business plan of the project is linked to timely payment of the power supplied through that project to the government.

The most lethal trust deficit has developed between the government and the donors. The state secures loans or asks for an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme to wriggle out of the financial crisis.

These programmes or loans are financed on firm government commitments to take steps for increasing revenues and eradicate corruption and malpractices. The government invariably backs out of its commitment after securing the loan and seeks waivers from the donors.

Now the donors do not trust the government and insist that commitments made should be implemented first before finances are released. The recent IMF tranche of $1 billion is the example in this regard.

We are living in a semi dysfunctional state which has enlarged inequalities in the society. The rich are getting richer and there is not even a trickle-down impact on the poor.

Even the Prime Minister had to appeal to the corporate sector to share its booty of Rs900 billion profit it earned in a year with its workers. Only a few have responded partially, mainly for publicity purposes.

The reluctance of the elite to share the burden of the poor is another major deficit that speaks volumes about the pathetic attitude of the rich towards the downtrodden.