22 versus 220
Pakistan is a nuclear power and always considered as geographically protected country. The responsibility of geographical security is considered in safe hands and world has witness this practically several times in history. However, no one can claim that country is equally protected economically and socially. Several times in history of Pakistan, nation has faced harsh economic situations, cost of which is always paid by the poor people of the country. Elite and privileged class remain immune from any such adverse economic impact and instead of being adversely affected, such class explores the opportunities to extract the benefits even from worst economic conditions. Elite class believes that nothing can hurt their economic interests. Does their believe seems true?
Recently, Sri Lanka faced worst economic situation and adverse balance of payment crisis led to civil war and riots. Country has remained under suppressed economic conditions since last many years and situation has not improved even after various loan programs which were negotiated with international financial institutions and other countries. The political governments in Sri Lanka have been introducing economic policies apparently to benefit the people which in reality were not at all in favour of anyone. The excess subsidies, tax cuts, unnecessary spending led the country to face the worst ever crisis since its independence. The government has been taking political advantages of providing the subsidies and tax cuts and people have not realized that in fact they are getting the package of problems and crisis. Although economist and independent experts have been criticizing the decisions of political government, but decision makers did not consider any such criticism.
Another factor which created the shortage of foods was the decision of shifting towards organic farming. The government of Sri Lanka announced the policy to shift its agriculture on organic farming whilst discouraging the use of fertilizers and pesticides. This step apparently seems very good but sudden shift collapsed the agriculture and shortage of food was erupted which also resulted in substantial decline in exports. Sri Lanka could have gradually shifted its agriculture on organic basis in phases; but government was enthusiastic to gain popularity from this decision and therefore, did not considered the consequences.
Sri Lanka has population of just 22 million whereas Pakistan is country of more than 220 million people. It should be realized that if country with 22 million population is in trouble and cannot fulfill the basic needs of the people then how a country with the population of more than 220 million would survive if it defaults. Countries like Pakistan would be in more drastic condition if any such crisis arises. There would be riots and chaos which could not be controlled even by powerful law enforcement agencies because controlling own people is much more difficult than combatting against foreign enemies at borders. Literacy rate of Sri Lanka is more than 90% which is much higher when compared with literacy rate in Pakistan. The people of Sri Lanka are considered very friendly and docile but when basic needs are not fulfilled then no one can stop people to come on the roads. The situation is chaotic enough that people of Sri Lanka are not even accepting the new political leadership andthey are demanding the basic necessities to survive.
The depiction of stone age of recent time can be witnessed in Sri Lanka and lesson should be learnt from them that when only popular decisions are made in order appease the nation then such decisions become catastrophic in future. When former chairman FBR in one of his statement clearly spelled out the situation and warned that ‘the entity is bankrupt’; people did not take his statement seriously. His views were taken aspolitical statement which in fact were purely based on the economic reality. Now the country is approaching towards that direction. Renowned credit rating agencies Fitch and Moody’s have downgraded rating of Pakistan which is another signal that corrective decisions are required immediately, and no more political gimmicks should be used to lure the people and avail the popularity.
Venezuela, Ukraine, Greece, Argentina, Ecuador, Mexico are few examples out of many countries which have defaulted their loans and adverse impacts were suffered by the people of those countries in the form of inflation, devaluation of currency, unemployment, shrinking economy etc. Besides these economic impacts, the worst devastating risk relates to autonomy of the country which cannot be overlooked. The announcement of providing free electricity in Punjab to specific class of people is one of the examples which can turn into disaster as such plan has been announced in haste and without proper planning.If Punjab government is intending to provide free or cheap electricity to poor class of society then the matter should first be discussed at Federal level. The enthusiasm in economic decisions should be realistic instead of lucrative because the economicrealities do not favour any political party or nation. Although Staff Level Agreement (SLA) has been finalized by Pakistan with IMF, but uncertainty still prevails; and Pak Rupee is continuously losing its value. Besides the terms and conditions agreed with the IMF, immediate actions are required to enhance the exports and curtailing imports through substitution with indigenous products. It is the matter of economic survival of more than 220 million people who are looking for stability. No matter how many harsh decisions are taken by the incumbent government, there should be no politics on economic front.We should not forget that economic decisions may be biased but the economy realities are always ‘neutral’.
The elite class in Pakistan who enjoys the luxuries even at higher price should not forget the harsh reality that deteriorating economic conditions can deprive them from even basic needs.Decision makers should recall the french history and should realize that when people would not be provided bread, they would not eat cake, instead they will be become rebellion. The economic realities can not see the face or name of the country and any country can become next ‘Lanka’.