Articles of the year 2009

Earn it Yourself
Published on October 03rd, 2009

A story about one of our late foreign secretary and then foreign minister details how after joining as an ICS officer, he was on a posting to Bengal. A visitor describes the foreign secretary addressing his subordinates, on their code of conduct, dress etc while sitting under a mosquito net! This story does indicate the colonial mindset prevalent amongst the native elite of Pakistan, and is practiced to this day. Our nation of 170 million people are condemned to standing outside the mosquito net watching with awe the rulers, within the net, wafting about in air-conditioned bullet-proof limousines from one meeting to another. Meanwhile, the people struggle with rising costs of power and other essentials.

Sadly for us the media, in churning out their daily grist, is the main to point out the efforts being made by the president on his mission to raise money from the outside world, while highlighting the desperate conditions prevailing here. As with our erstwhile brothers in East Pakistan, which was continuously a disaster area, and their yearly floods were used by the government to procure funds, the bulk of which, were of course spent in West Pakistan. Bangladesh has after independence from Pakistan made dramatic strides in its economic progress, and has left us far behind. We should learn from the other members in the East by trying to become self-reliant in food on a priority basis. These shortages - mostly manmade should be done away with, by simple bureaucratic measures, coupled with a few honest political figures. Surely there are some leftover?

The biggest impediment to the Zardari government is his choice of Cabinet members. As he has proved himself, he does not need such a large Cabinet, of whom the bulk have no contribution to make. The same problem led to the downfall of General (retd) Pervez Musharraf. There were priceless gems such as the slapper -a Cabinet member who was wont to slap lowly government functionaries in public. Then the liar who in public could not manage to tell the truth. With such men, General (retd) Musharraf had to go down. The level of Asif Zardari's Cabinet member at the federal level is just as bad, with one lady MNA being censured for using abusive language to a fellow parliamentarian. However, Asif Zardari is on a lucky winning streak and is successfully carrying his party. Without President Zardari they would quickly go back into the unknowns.

Pakistan must now move on. And learn to earn its way. Our factories are collapsing in neglect. All the funds are being channelled into the Stock Market which has not invested in one new IPO in the last two years. Our industry has been neglected for too long. Being the largest generator of jobs (after agriculture) it is imperative that we focus on industry, and manufacturing. It is time that we realised that exports are our lifeline, and we should set about building up this sector.

President Asif Ali Zardari must now focus primarily on reviving the manufacturing sector, and he must immediately start to prioritise this sector. It should be possible to allow easier access to the President minus the myriad middlemen without whom access is impossible, raising the spectre of corruption. Being an astute businessman President Asif Ali Zardari himself knows well the bottlenecks within the system, and he has the mechanism for their removal. This would be his biggest contribution to the economy of Pakistan. To rely on US aid, is far too long and the only way is to involve the private sector. It is a huge mistake to spend so much time on the Kerry-Lugar Bill, especially when so many of our officers in Washington have already spent much time and money on its present sorry state. And they will surely defend their positions, with all the spin skills at their disposal. The public knows they have been hoodwinked - yet again. We should look into our domestic capabilities, and stop whining for handouts. Earn it ourselves should be the motto. The invitation to the Italians is a step in the right direction, and will pay rich dividends. There should be many more such attempts to kick-start the economy.

The main thrust should be in bringing the domestic industrialist, businessman and entrepreneur into the game, for who better knows the ways of business in Pakistan, than the Pakistani. It may be advisable to ask the Pakistani businessman to guide the government and to draw up incentives for new ventures. With a huge pool of educated youth - unemployed as of now, the government should invest in funding these youngsters. These Pakistanis must be given the opportunity. Venture capital is the need of the hour.