Let’s stop moving in circles | By Riaz Missen 


Let’s stop moving in circles

IF politics is to be conducted from the point of view of keeping the state organized and united, then its centre and axis can be nothing but justice. Justice, in which the oppressed get relief and even the oppressor is not abused.

From providing basic necessities of life (quality food, clean water, health, education and employment) to the people, the tax system (progressive or exploitative? From whom and where is the tax collected and in what period? Is spent?) Until all comes under the purview of justice.

Only if these matters are carried out in an efficient manner can the society move on the path of peace, stability and development.

Now, if after a long time a political party has come to the fore raising the banner of justice, it is certainly a good development.

Its predecessors were ideologically committed to something else, right from restoring democracy to making Pakistan an Asian tiger.

Despite failing to do much on its election manifesto, the PTI government has maintained its revolutionary tone. Its identity remains intact that it’s a party that stands for change and, hence, reflects the thinking of the society against maintaining the status quo.

The Prime Minister bothers remembers the people from time to time and gives them hope of getting rid of inflation, hunger and disease.

Just think of something that falls in the interest of the commoner, he just talks about it promising to make it his goal.

Take, for instance, the case of inflation. Ultimately, in a federation arising outof the 18th amendment the poor performance of the provinces is the real culprit.

If food is expensive, it means that either the agricultural policy is poor (what, where and how much to grow) or the deterioration in supply and demand brought about by profiteers and hoarders.

If the resources provided to the provinces by the federation cannot make it possible to provide basic necessities of life to the near and far regions, then it means that the resources are being diverted somewhere else.

The commoners needs tax relief when inflation is on the rise and coronavirus is slowing down economic growth.

If the government wants to do something concrete, it can provide relief and use the option of levying special taxes to take an alternative route of revenue. That is, tax the nobles instead of the poor and the middle class. But this is not happening.

The federal government has kept its policy rate high and has made essential commodities a means of collecting taxes. Thus the tradition of regressive taxations continues unabatedly.

Austerity was another promise, but the number of ministers and advisers is growing. The latest addition is Arbab Ghulam Rahim, who has been made the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Sindh.

He will assist the PTI in setting foot in Sindh. Although he will not receive any stipend, he will be entitled to other benefits.

Now this is not a government job, it is a party job, let the party do it, what does the government have to do with it? Another promise was the establishment of local governments in the spirit of the Constitution so that the distribution of resources within the provinces would be fair and the underdeveloped areas would have a chance to move forward.

This is also important because the provincial capitals are in the suburbs and the central regions are lagging behind in the race for development.

Just leave the case of Sindh to the courts, it was easy to do all this in the other three provinces.

If Sindh did not form a Provincial Finance Commission for equitable distribution of resources, then when did other provinces take this step? In this case, however, there is no difference between the attitude of the PTI and the traditional political parties who understood their constitutional responsibility but used to obstruct it.

The latest foot-dragging has come from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan in which they have requested the Election Commission to postpone these elections till March next year because there is insurgency in Afghanistan!

Thus, the PTI government has not been able to show any significant performance in terms of its election manifesto, either in the federation or in the provinces. If there is something it has done, it has indulged in verbatim, excessively.

It wants to run Pakistan in the style of the State of Madinah, take taxes from the rich and spend on the poor and raise the standard of life!.

No one knows when or how it will happen. When the new finance minister, Shaukat Tarin, emerged on the scene, he had clearly said that he would rein in the monster of inflation on a priority basis, but for months now, he has not been able to do anything about it.

Electricity, gas, cooking oil, flour and pulses are still expensive, so how can the people breathe a sigh of relief?

Before the election, he used to say that if he came to power, he could change the country’s economy in no time.

But the greatest achievement of his government is that in the last three years it has helped capitalism strike its root deeper in the country.

It’s something that had failed the Chartered Parties because they heavily borrowed from international financial institutions for economic reforms but failed to meet their conditions (increasing the scope of taxes, eliminating subsidies and improving institutional performance).

The ex-ruling parties withdrew from areas such as education and health and handed them over to the private sector.

Deprived of governmental support on basic necessities of life, the people cried foul and stood behind the party that promised them change.

But what has the current government done? Even before the budget, the Prime Minister had declared inflation inevitable and said that prices could not be brought back but the government could take steps to increase people’s income!

— The writer is contributing columnist, based in Islamabad.

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