Syed Qamar afzal Rizvi
TODAY, Pakistan is undergone to confront some underpinning challenges but not despairing—its people have the energy and uncompromising resolve of rebuilding this nation and have the capacity to rise phoenix-like from the ashes. The remaking of Pakistan into a welfare state is certainly a mammoth challenge but not impossible. Pakistan’s promising future lies in its drive of selfless nationalism-an objective that needs a series of evolutionary reform in rendering this Government’s mission possible.
A welfare state is a state that is rightly meant for the welfare of the people. It could be in terms of money or services. Cash payments, subsidies, concessions, grants and public distribution, and a state whose social justice system is unquestionable. All these welfare measures amount to the redistribution of governmental revenue to the needy. At the global level, Canada and the Scandinavian states-Sweden, Norway and Denmark-are the worth examples of the welfare state system. And yet, a paragon model for the welfare state system historically, rests with the State of Medina founded by the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) PM Khan’s reform manifesto is encouraging yet it requires a resourceful strategy to confront the economic, political and institutional challenges.
First, our economic challenges: Needless to say that it is the economic stability and progress through which the future of a state seems predictable. Pakistan has been facing different challenges regarding its economy. The economic scenario of today’s Pakistan is undoubtedly very critical——people are anxiously looking towards its leadership to resolve the present economic turmoil. Pakistan is fully and richly ridden with manifold opportunities which can astutely help us to solve the economic crisis faced by us. But make no mistake without tackling long-term challenges and problems decisively, the country could hardly be able to take advantages of the windowing opportunities. Surely, increase in debt, increase in import and decrease in export, low savings, lower investment, low tax collection-all these ills accompanied by lack of policy implementation, and fatal excessive taxation are indeed the striking challenges faced by the state economy. And yet truly, some of the solutions of these problems are none but offering low-interest rate, die hard-collection of the taxes, and befitting use of young labour force,
The first state-value or feature which is common among the Scandinavian welfare states is they collect a large proportion of their GDP in taxes. Norway collects 38pc, Denmark about 45pc, and Sweden about 44pc. This means that these states have a large and extensive tax infrastructure — and people pay a large proportion of their income in taxes. The rich pay more: in Denmark, the top marginal tax rate is about 60p. While comparing this with Pakistan, we receive only 12pc of our GDP in taxes. Denmark spends over twice as much of its GDP on social welfare alone. After recent tax reforms in Pakistan, the top marginal tax rate is just 15pc — significantly lower than Scandinavian countries. The present government’s Ahsas Programme sustained by Benazir Income Support Programme is a positive move.
In addition, in terms of stabilizing the economy, we need to take some expedient measures to decrease inflation since our macroeconomic situation is not better. Our international reserves have to rise, and the fiscal deficit has to come down. IMF‘s current bailout package is not a permanent solution. Pakistan’s credit ratings need be improved allowing it to access international capital markets on better terms. As for the foreign investment, the good news is that China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, South Korea, and Malaysia are interested to invest in Pakistan. Establishment of the CPEC Authority is core to the future of this mega project.
Second, our political leadership crisis: The present political leadership’s mindset is somehow changed from the past, yet to truly transform the DNA of premature democracy in Pakistan much needs to reform in terms of land reform and electoral reform. To provide the very fruition of transcending democracy, Pakistan political culture needs drastic changes via an evolutionary process. Nonetheless, envisaging the inflorescence of a new leadership beyond dynastic politics from constituency to the national level is a phantasy since dynastic politics has become institutionalized. In our attempt to exorcise the evil of dynastic politics, we need to adopt two core measures: First urbanization and second democracy within the political parties. Without fulfilling this objective, it seems impossible that we may change our political culture.
Third, our institutional disarrays: the institutional crisis is core to the ailments that we inherit from our syncretic approaches to colonialism. The reasons cited by the leading analysts for Pakistan’s institutional struggles are varied and complex. Both Dr Ishrrat Hussian and Michael Kugelman have tried to diagnose the root causes involving this institutional disorder. In their view, the major causes include the politicization of the civil service, which has resulted in institutions monitored by unqualified political appointees; a strong legacy of undemocratic rule, which has undercut and degraded civilian tools of governance; deep institutional dependencies on donor organizations, which constrain the ability of institutions to craft long-term policies; a lack of institutional revenue, thanks in part to Pakistan’s woefully low tax base; the political class’s insufficient interest in improving the public welfare; and the state’s outright neglect of institutions and needed governance reforms in health, education and justice system.
Nonetheless, Pakistan’s institutional inefficiencies have paved the way for the military establishment to fill the flaws as becoming an emergency healer. But the impact of strategic planning in our national affairs cannot be survived without feedback from our security establishment. A good civil-military relationship is pivotal to future stability. Pakistan is truly blessed with multiple riches; its painstaking people, its unprecedented geography and natural resources, its impeachable defence which is unbeatable because of its professionally most capable armed forces. Our national task of state-building needs a systematic, sustainable approach tested by all variables in order to foster economic egalitarianism, political stability, institutional efficacy and balance in Pakistan.
—The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-analyst based in Pakistan, is member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies, also a member of Washington Foreign Law Society and European Society of International Law.