Time to act: Save people, cut down expenses
The first and the foremost principle of economy is to freeze wages, and control monetary expansion to curb inflation. All sympathies for the government employees, but they are not the only people to have sympathies. Increase in salaries in the past has not helped solve the problems. It has only added to the miseries for the general public. Lessons need to be learnt from Britain and some other countries of the world, who pruned their budgets, lowered the salaries of ministers voluntarily, to help recover the economy from further downslide. In our country, policies and perceptions seem to be missing completely from the minds of those, entrusted with the task of planning and execution of economic policies . Pakistan is a country of 180 million souls, majority of them from middle, lower middle , or poor classes, representing different segments of the society, not just the bureaucracy. But since the days of a self styled economist, Dr Mahbul Haq, increase in pay and pensions of government servants, seem to be the principle plank of the budget making exercises. Majority of population are in private service, or involved in small vocations. They are already up against a dilemma. Families with limited or meagreincome, find it hard and tough to make their both ends meet. Any more expenses or greater budgetary allocations for government departments, would be an unbearable burden on the poor and the ordinary. From where will a government, running on debts, and dependant heavily on State Bank loans, will balance the differences between earning and expenses. All previous budgets for the last many decades, during the last four years of this government specially , have been lop-sided, absolutely unrealistic in character, and devoid of any logic or philosophy.
If the poor find themselves, in the midst of a grinding machine because of the spiraling prices of essential commodities, the rich or the businessmen and industry owners, too are unhappy because of the growing energy crisis. Pakistani products have already become uncompetitive because of the persistent power shortage, and the illogical tariff increases. Petrol ,electricity and gas charges are increased without giving any consideration to its aftermath or the effect on the dwindling economic conditions of the country. The fundamental principle in an elected and an autocratic government is the perceptions and realization of peoples problems. The PPP claims itself to be pro-people and pro-poor but it has shown total disregard to peoples problems. Organisations like NEPRA, and OGRA(oil and gas regularoty authority) have and army of top heavy officials. They do not understand the problems of the general public because they donít pay fuel from their pockets. The government should reconstitute the NEPRA and OGRA to be headed and have majority if members from elected representatives of the people, who could understand the grievances and sufferings of the people.
Now, in all fairness, the presidency, and the prime minister house should cut down their budgets, instead of increasing it. Lavish life style ought to be avoided. Prime minister should cut down drastically on his entourage on travels abroad, and the presidency should lower its expenses. Ministers salaries should be halved and their petrol bills and other expenses needed be drastically curtailed. In fact most of the ministers in the present government, represent richer or agriculturist classes. They should give up salaries and work voluntarily, and also use their own cars or means of transportation. The nation needs sacrifices. Why are the poor and the limited income groups alone are being asked to be the beasts of burden. Agriculturists have enormous income now in the rural areas. The ministers and the parliamentarians from richer classes, should voluntarily surrender their salaries. Similarly government officers, especially of grade 19 and above, must cut down on their petrol bills, and lavish allowances. That would bring considerable saving, and the ordinary and the poor people of this country, will realize that others too are sharing the burden. That will instill a new life in them, and tend to end or reduce the contempt, dividing the rich and the poor at present.
Imagine prices of commodities, rice, flour, ghee, cooking oil, fruits, vegetables , fuel etc have risen 300 to 400 percent during the last four years. Any further taxation or rise in allocations for the ministries would mean more burden for the poor. Can a government, elected on votes of the people, afford to do that?
The government has a planning commission, which is just redundant. Its fundamental job is to prepare, short, medium and long term planning for economic growth of the country. The five year plan is now a thing of the past, has become history. The present planning commission is now acting as a sanctioning body for approval of projects etc, which is not its job .Money spent on planning commission and its staff is sheer waste. It must be stopped immediately. The planning commission should have eminent economist to prepare for long and short term policies and perspective planning for 20 years or more. The fact that this is not being done, shows utter lack of vision on the part of those in authority. Time now therefore to think, and apply minds for the betterment of the people. Relying on foreign aid or bank borrowing would not do. Domestic saving should be promoted. No or scant attention has been paid to this vital segment of economy. Will the government act?