Mirza Shahnawaz Agha
ONE can budget what one has and for what one does not have one can aspire, desire, plan on having, or simply dream about! When budgets are drawn up based on a given assumption that there is a source one can draw upon and it is a universally accepted norm in what is called the ‘world order’ then one gets to see a ledger which shows income at 100 and expenses at 200 and all duly budgeted! The announcement of a deficit budget has become a ritual just like Eid-i-Qurban where the government sets out annually to announce it pledge to the ‘world order’ and un-failing commitment to slavery, subservience, and monetary subjugation.
Our Central bank and economists are seemingly sworn on oath to uphold the feature of debt and this is without the tacit permission of us the people. It is, as were no rules in our ideology to the conditionality’s of debt creation and or assumption! Nobody from amongst the servants of us the people, seem to ask us the people if debt should be taken and what the conditions thereof should it be. From the perspective of our founding ideology we cannot borrow on interest and we cannot borrow on any conditions for the mode of tax collections to debt service.
While this is the hay day feature of our glorious past in the Ministry of finance this criticism would be absurd if the alternate is not put into place as a legal writ in line with our founding ideology. We need to first define the parameters of the do’s and the don’ts. We cannot borrow on interest. We cannot debt service by over taxing our people as that kills the incentive to labor. We cannot accept conditions that compromise our defense and national security and most we cannot ask Allah to wait while we fiddle!
Borrowing has to be a special act of Parliament to approve after reasonable debate and with total transparency for the purpose and for the conditionality. Debt servicing has to be in the currency of borrowing only and not on the basis of a ‘reserve currency’ so assumed of the world. We must buy our needs in our currency only and must sell in the currency of the buyer irrespective of the political and or geo-political standing of the buyer. The Central bank must initiate a liberal lending policy globally to spread and strengthen the domestic currency. In the domestic market money should be syndicated by banks and not loaned under the garb of Islamic Banking, as there is no such thing.
Countries that have not taken initiatives have not evolved and have not ever stood their ground for values and National Character. Pakistan has to get out of the shackles of servitude and lead the financial world for the medium of exchange. That in effect is at the root of industrial and social development and true independence. The powers that be that restrain our evolution on the path of autarky are religious edicts and the glorified community of clerics who seem to have become a political and economic vested interest. The other people to blame are the legislators who have sat in the assemblies of an Islamic Republic and have yet never reflected on our plight for being monetarily colonized. Of course the armed forces that have maximum use for foreign exchange have to share some blame too for towing the status quo and not producing our own defense equipment.
If we reflect on what and how the picture will emerge is unique. From the political stand point the bully on the block proverbially will be neutralized, as we would have divorced that relationship. Socially the labor compensation would have met with the actual needs of the population for literacy clothing, health care, housing and security. Research and development would become rampant and homegrown recipes would replace the imported tools that deform us culturally. The economic impact would give us new levels of domestic production and would give birth to a Commonwealth of Nations that would like to be part of a free trade zone where the burden of conditional debt would be absent. Our natural resources will forcefully come to our aid and supplement a lot of our needs, which presently lean on debt with nasty conditions. The benefits way out weigh our imagination that seems to be frozen in the misery of the current status quo and the ritualized circus we call the annual budget.
The point I am trying to make is it’s time we look inwards rather than outwards. We need to put our house in order to go anywhere. Seven decades is a very long time in the history of any nation today to assert itself and learn to live by a set of principles that are based on its founding ideology. The question that always seems to come in the way is political compromise within and that has now become a business of profit taking by opposing for the sake of opposing. The outer crust that holds a nation above political ploys is the need of the hour and budget or no budget, election or no election we will remain adrift until we pause and lay the foundations on a solid kneel. Any takers?
— The writer is an entrepreneur and author based in Karachi.