by Shahzad Latif Ph.D. (Political Economist) 28 September 2020
Ever since I have come to maturity I have been hearing that to root out corruption there is a big revolution coming to Pakistan.
Can anybody please tell me when is this revolution coming and who is bringing it?
I believe the time is now and every individual has to part-take in bringing this revolution. This has to be comprehensive. For all the nation’s shortcomings to be properly addressed, attention should be given to aspects of political, economic, and social change.
One thing is certain — as long we continue on this path of Parliamentary system of Democracy we will not see the change. Because this suits the corrupt politicians, based on you scratch my back, and I scratch your principle. Unfortunately, this particular system has proven to be such in many countries.
A formed government that has the majority of the votes in parliament (whether collusion or one party) tries to continue to remain in power by indulging itself in corrupt practices and ignoring the corrupt actions of its supporters. Thus all involved in the government take advantage of the system. Also, under this system, the political parties fight over who supports whom, rather than concentrate on issues of the public.
Pakistan unfortunately is in a parliamentary democracy quagmire. I call this quagmire because unless the elected parliamentarians amend the constitution to change the system, real change will not happen.
However, many politicians will resist such an effort because it is akin to relinquishing their power. The only way to make these elected officials to bring such a change is through a Lawyers’ Movement, like the action we experienced a couple of years ago. There is a need to mobilize students and journalists for this purpose as well.
This parliamentary system needs to be replaced by a presidential system of democracy if we have to remain as a democratic country. See, in Pakistan let us be straight we can find at least one person who is honest and sincere, and who can lead the country to a better future. Also, that person can bring in people as ministers who have pain for the country and want to do something good for the country.
A presidential system has better checks and balances built-in. Most of the power rests with the president. This system is also closer to the Islamic Caliphate way of government. President gets elected straight by the people. No way a person who puts his or her own personal interest ahead of the nation can attain such a position. People can scrutinize the person being elected thoroughly, rather than an individual being “selected” as president by the parliamentarians who suits them.
Additionally, under this system, people also elect parliamentarians (or members of Mujlese Shura) as their representatives, therefore they can elect people who provide an effective check and balance as well as bring their regional issues to the forum.
Under the presidential system, President appoints ministers as per their expertise rather than against the support to form the government. There is no pressure on the president to have an unnecessarily huge cabinet, and thus carry the superfluous financial burden.
Also, the president must be the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces thus diminishing the chances of perpetual martial law. This will also help control the wasteful defense budget. This system will curtail discretionary powers which tend to be corruptible.
At the provincial level, we should have a structure similar to the federal level i.e; governorship and provincial parliament.
We have experienced the parliamentary system and its consequences over the past 63years. Now it is time to make a change. There is a need to start the movement to change the system.
Journalists, students, and lawyers need to take the lead and force the parliamentarians to amend the constitution to bring in a presidential system of government in Pakistan.
We have to revert to a quasi-socialist economic system for a short period of time. I see no other way to put a brake on this unfortunate hyperinflationary vicious cycle we are experiencing.
As people know economic activity is controlled by monetary and fiscal policies. Fiscal policy is something controlled by the executive branch of government and monetary policy by the State Bank.
Fiscal policy in a nutshell is ideally based on the balance of revenue and expenditure. It is OK to carry deficit finance in order to run economic developmental programs, however, in Pakistan, the problem is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, revenues are way low because of the lax tax laws as well as tax collection issues. On the other, there is corruption in spending. These factors result in a huge deficit and prompt relentless borrowing both domestically and internationally. Thereby we end up in a position where we have to take dictations from outside for our policies.
On the Monetary policy side, State Bank is supposed to control the circulation of money by keeping the inflation situation in view. It is commonly understood that inflation is a cause of high demand. However, it is imperative to understand that in Pakistan’s case inflation is not predominantly a result of too much money circulation or in other words high demand. Our case unfortunately is totally opposite. In our case inflation is due to a shortage of supply.
Our poor people cannot afford basic food, gas, electricity, CNG, etc. How would they add to inflationary pressure?
State Bank of Pakistan tends to control inflation by increasing interest and other money controlling monetary policy instruments. In the case of Pakistan money needs to be made available so that it is invested, basic necessities are made available and jobs are created.
We need to eliminate supply-side frictions so that basic necessities of the poor masses are met.
We are an agrarian country. We need to take a hard look at this sector. First, we need to make sure our masses are fed, and then use the rest of the food to create jobs i.e; in the food processing industry.
To start with we will need to highly subsidize the production factors involved in this sector i.e; seeds, fertilizer, technology, and extend the availability of water, etc. Crops must be better managed, and directions and incentives should be given to farmers what to grow and when.
Think about it. If our masses are not properly fed then how productive can they be?
We need to build cold storage so that we can save food products until the new crop comes in. When the new crop is about to come then allow the export of processed foodstuff. We simply cannot afford to export foodstuff when we have hyperinflation at home due to a low supply of food items. Disallow the export of any raw materials. Only value-added products i.e; textiles/garments, processed food (beyond domestic needs), leather goods, etc. must be allowed. We need to create jobs at home.
We must subsidize petrol/CNG/electricity/gas no matter how much we annoy i.e; IMF. High prices of these are hurting all of the industry. We need to find immediate alternative ways to eliminate shortages of these.
We need to pay serious attention to encouraging research and innovation. Research and innovation are the basic elements of economic development. New products must be manufactured and exported. Our exporters for the most part tend to compete amongst themselves so much that they end up working on minute margins. Thus they start exporting low-quality goods.
There is a huge need for building infrastructure. This will help reduce inflation as it will help bring consumables to consumers fast. It’ll help the redistribution of wealth as under-developed areas will develop. This will also reduce rural-to-urban area migration thus reduce pressure on major cities.
It is imperative to increase the education budget to 20%. Improve the condition of existing schools. Establish vocational schools where youngsters can learn and earn simultaneously because basic reason for the high dropout rate is that poor parents need kids to work in order to supplement the family income.
We must divide up lands and give to poor farmers. This will serve two purposes one poor farmer will be on their own and be able to earn a decent living for their hard work. And secondly and very importantly, the political clout of the landlords will be diminished.
How we are going to pay for all this if you ask. First, we need to stop making wasteful projects and channel the money to the right things. Secondly, tax laws need to be revisited and must be enforced without prejudice to enhance tax collection.
There is a need to take concrete steps to eradicate the current state of mind of the nation which is resulting in corruption at every level, including individual, bureaucratic and governmental.
After all the needs are met it is imperative that individuals focus on something good. And that good is volunteerism.
Volunteerism teaches how to lead, how to follow, politeness, sense of service, ownership of the society & country, and pride of being a citizen. It will help change wrong attitudes towards education, cleanliness, carelessness about others, most of all lack of respect for others’ rights. It will help individuals stay busy with good and keep them away from things considered socially evil.
Volunteerism must start at the grassroots level like muhala (street), school, and college. They could help keep the street clean, help educate people, etc.
There are two ways to eliminate terrorism, corruption, and criminal activities. Most importantly is the availability of jobs. People have to fulfill their hunger as it is the very basic need of a human being. Unfortunately, due to a lack of income, they follow the wrong way. We need to do everything humanly possible to create and provide jobs.
Secondly, we need to make tough laws, establish and enforce harsh punishments against corruption, and other criminal activities. Hire and train young police personnel at very high salaries so that they do their job diligently and honestly.
All three aspects of revolution need to be brought out simultaneously so that we can root out the common thinking where individuals opt-out by simply saying “how will my individual change help when others in government and bureaucracy are corrupt”.
This revolution has to be unanimous and in a manner, it is taken very seriously.
Keep in mind we have some good friends in the world. Once they see we are embarking on a plan to change ourselves for the better they will come forward and help us get through.
I think we have talked enough. Talk show hosts need to help bring new faces to the horizon. Tell the masses about them and discuss their ideas and show what they could do for their good.