Sunday August 14, 2022

Selfless politicians

July 02, 2022

LAHORE: We need a responsible government that prefers national interest over personal gains. The decisions taken by a responsible government are never popular particularly if action hurts the status quo so dear to vested interests.

Unfortunately, we lack responsible politicians. Rulers do not have to put forward the lame excuse that petroleum rates have increased because of the agreement the past government signed with the IMF. This is not true. The reality is that the global crude oil rates warranted a sustained increase in petroleum rates in line with progressive increase in global crude and in dollar value against the rupee.

At the same time, the current opposition is acting irresponsibly by criticising the increase in gasoline prices. It knows that the price increases are fair and the Rs10 per liter subsidy it announced when in power was unjust and played havoc with national finances.

Our adversaries sitting across the border must be enjoying this self-destroying war between political opponents in Pakistan. In fact, they would be relieved in the presence of self-centered politicians in Pakistan that they do not need gun power to subdue this country.

Most of the actions taken by the present government and almost all actions of the previous regime spared the vested interests, influential segments, manipulators, and mostly targeted the common man. Increase in petroleum rates and in power tariff though economically justified, has devastated the common man.

Businesses will recover the impact of these increases from the public through the goods and services they provide.

The only direct impact the rich face is the 10 percent super tax. Protest against this tax is deafening. This is not enough.

Vested interests are benefiting much more for the low level of governance and absence of accountability. Most ills in the economy are because of bad governance that has given rise to rent seekers who are partners in crime with the tax evaders, short filers, smugglers, in fact with all law breakers. Competent officers have been sidelined because they refuse to execute illegal orders of the ruling elite. This has crept incompetence in the bureaucracy.

It is an established fact that incompetence is more injurious for the economy than corruption. A competent person despite being corrupt can deliver better than an incompetent but honest individual. In Pakistan’s case, the bureaucracy is loaded with both incompetent and corrupt. This the reason that governance in our country has gone from bad to worse. The only way to bring sanity back in the system is to ensure rule-based governance.

Rule-based governance does not suit the ruling elite, the influential and the bureaucracy. The first step in this regard would be to do away with discretionary powers eliminating all chances of bypassing rules and regulations.

Both the ruling elite and the bureaucracy would be deprived of numerous unjustified powers to tinker with the rules. Appointments and posting transfers would be on pure merit. All decisions on applications, requests for services or permits would be transparent and posted promptly on the web as the law requires.

Bribes might not be eliminated but would reduce to trickle particularly if all violations of rules are made accountable. Those found violating rules must be shown the door after a third violation.

This is easier said than done. If done, rulers and bureaucrats would be servants of the people, and this they do not want.