Governance issues — a major dilemma | by Rashid A Mughal

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Governance issues — a major dilemma


WITH third year in power, the PTI government is still facing governance issues. People are
getting tired with the slogans of “Don’t worry; everything will be ok” while the prices of every day food items continue to rise with no end in sight.

The “out-of-control” inflation has impacted the poor masses and the middle class equally. While it has become impossible for the poor to survive on the existing wages, the middle class is struggling to meet both ends meet due to almost 42% rise in the prices of food items, commonly.

We hear every day the same rhetoric from government spokesmen that prices will come down but what is really happening is quiet the opposite.

Frequent rise in oil and gas prices coupled with un-checked electricity tariffs have put enormous pressure on the people and they have no way out in sight.

The net result is that the number of poor segment of society is rising rapidly while the profiteers and manipulators are having a field day with no check on their nefarious designs.

One wonders, where is the government machinery, the price control committees the vigilance committees whose job is to monitor the market forces and prevent and punish the manipulators from exploiting the citizens of this great country. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan which was promised to be made Riyasat-e- Medina.

Pakistan is confronted, at present, with a variety of governance issues, which have become a hindrance in the smooth and sustainable development of the country.

World Economic Forum report ranks Pakistan at 124 among 144 countries on the index of competitiveness which is based on 12 pillars as follows: institutions (115), infrastructure (116), macroeconomic environment (139), health and primary education (117), higher education and training (124), goods market efficiency (97), labour market efficiency (130), financial market development (73), technological readiness (118), market size (30), business sophistication (78) and innovation (77). This portrays a pathetic picture of governance at national and international level.

Pakistan needs to review its policies regarding the efficiency and effectiveness of governance at all levels with a serious concern for development and growth in the short term and long term. It is an established fact that poor governance leads to corruption in a number of ways.

According to a study, there are three basic elements of governance in Pakistan, which need core attention of the government, mentioned as decentralization, corruption and the social and economic costs of mal-governance.

The governance issue is not restricted to these three broad areas only. Other than these three core segments, governance reforms are inevitable particularly in the areas of fiscal (taxation) and monetary policy (money demand and supply), financial management (budget deficits), energy (circular debt management), law and order, ethnic and terrorist governance issues and devolution of power to local governments which pose as some of the major challenges for Pakistan.

Despite the maximum number of legislative reforms by the last government, governance still poses a big challenge for both the bureaucracy and politicians.

There is a number of studies which indicate the weaknesses in tax policy and administration, as Pakistan’s most serious challenges.

After the 18th Amendment in the Constitution, provinces are given more autonomy, devolving the main responsibility for the delivery of education, health, water and sanitation, roads and transport as well as agriculture services.

This functional devolution naturally accompanied by remarkable political, fiscal and administrative changes at provincial and national levels.

Despite all this, administrative decentralization remains the most contentious area, which still follows the path of pre-partition era.

Provinces are more autonomous in recruiting junior level staff, whereas, federal (central) services still remain under the umbrella of Central Superior Services .

Pakistan has been concerned for the improvement of its institutional and human capacity to improve the livelihood of its citizens since its inception.

This surge for improvement in the lifestyle of its citizens is assessed by the level of good governance in the country.

Pakistan lags far behind in the field of governance, as the same is evident from the world reports on governance.

Pakistan needs to review and revise its policies to earn effective and efficient governance practices.

Law and order, energy, economy, political stability and national harmony are the key governance issues in Pakistan, which need comprehensive policy response.

Pakistan has to overcome its shortcomings in the corruption control, accountability and mal-administration through legal frameworks in support, to ensure the good governance.

Pakistan can achieve the good governance by introducing integrity, coordination, cooperation among individuals as well as institutions, besides the economic sustainability and proper policy process implementation.

It was important to go after the ill-gotten assets of the corrupt. “This process can be overwhelming for even the most experienced of practitioners,” notes Jean-Pierre Brun, co-author of Asset Recovery Handbook: A Guide for Practitioners.

“In Pakistan, the process was alleviated by the freezing of assets by Switzerland, the EU and the USA.

The new government, of course, wanted to get that money back, and what was heartening was the collaboration of many of the officials in the old government who had knowledge of the illicit transfers—even clerical staff helped.”

Big fish had to be fried, meaning the prosecution of a few of the most abusive members of the old order, both government officials and corrupt business people.

This demonstrated to angry citizens that things were indeed changing. NAB is currently seized of the matter and there are numerous inquiries against the past rulers and their front men and bureaucrats in process.

The most important task is to get back the ill-gotten wealth these people amassed by plundering the national exchequer.

On 25 March 1948, Quaid-i-Azam set the tone for public servants and raised the bar for the quality of public service and public sector governance in Pakistan.

The young Republic had barely become independent yet, in Quaid’s mind, the spirit of the moment called for a new purpose: “Maintain highest standards of honour, integrity, justice and fair play,” he advised public officials.

That seven-decade message and the country’s resilient spirit is still relevant and must now drive Pakistan’s vision towards the status of an upper middle-income country by 2047.

Developing countries, the world over, have made progress under far more difficult circumstances than Pakistan.

From Singapore and Malaysia to Rwanda and Vietnam— reforming countries have had to overcome significant geographical disadvantage or the effects of decades of debilitating conflict.

Today, these countries have summoned the spirit of nationhood, transformed their governance arrangements and are strategically placed to better turn these disadvantages into forces for healthy transformation.

The example of Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Vietnam is thus before us and we need to learn from their spectacular rise in a matter of two-three decades where as we seem to be sliding backwards.
— The writer is former DG (Emigration) and consultant ILO, IOM.

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