Too many cooks spoil the broth | By Muhammad Usman


Too many cooks spoil the broth

WITH unceremonious exit of Hafeez Sheikh, a long-dead Economic Advisory Council (EAC) has been revitalized with the underlying purpose of fetching best possible professional advice for the government on its economic policies.

Its mandate remains the same however, its composition has been enhanced considerably.

Previously its members were 18, now they are 25. Possibly it is to broaden or better the content of its advice while forgetting it’s a lethal proverbial downside “too many cooks spoil the broth”.

If too many people try to control, influence or work on something, the final outcome will be worse as a result of it.

This expression alludes to each of many cooks adding something to a soup which finally tastes awful.

Another explanation is that too many people involved in managing an activity can ruin it because of too many opinions how to do it.

In the case of Pakistan, ensuing implications are far graver than above could unravel. A full spectrum look into them may make it a forbidding discourse.

These could dehydrate our dilapidated economy further dangerously. We could ill afford hit and miss experimentations.

Three members of EAC have been Finance Minister of the country. None has any worth cherishing achievement under his belt. Most prominent is Shauka Tarin. At present, apart from running own bank, mired in difficulties, he is also under NAB scrutiny.

No other member is also known for making a speculator contribution for uplift of the national economy.

By and large, they all are tried horses. Generally, the patent medicine approach is their pet prescription to overhaul the economy whereas our economic state is too precarious to deal with.

This warrants an innovative, insightful and bold approach to come out of the woods and be on the path of sustained recovery before making significant strides upward.

Such an initiative is taken by those who are self-denying, not the self-seeking.
An overwhelming majority of us have become self-serving and averse to risk even own smallest interest regardless of what is at stake nationally.

Again its manifestation could be found in avidness of Shakuat Tarin who reportedly, first showed exuberance for Finance Minister then convener of EAC for reasons best known to him.

Finally, he is the member. Such people could inundate the ministry with high sounding pieces of advice to keep themselves relevant and preserve their raison d’etre.

Present incumbent, Hammad Azher is relatively unseasoned and may encounter difficulties in sifting essentials from the over flooding of opinions/recommendations.

There also exists another possibility that in the presence of such heavyweights, he may feel overawed.

This could dent his confidence as Finance Minister which otherwise is of vital importance to stand against the test of difficult time.

Someone may harbor ambition of becoming Finance Minister by himself through straight or crooked ways.

This could be a dangerous proposition. Professional jealousy/persecution is another dimension to be kept under watch.

The advice without responsibility is another important aspect which needs to be watched carefully in case of such bodies.

Generally, they do not bear responsibility for their advisory thus, this could be lopsided for the reason.

Imran Khan has scant knowledge of economy and as Chairman of EAC, may face problems on this score. Many members of EAC own private business enterprises.

This brings an element of conflict of interest. It is quite widely viewed that the departure of Hafeez Shiekh was not due to the reason what the Information Minister, Shibli Faraz, has cited; his failure to control price hike. It is something different from unbecoming conduct.

He was brought in as a replacement of PTI opening batsman, Asad Umar after due diligence but eventually, had to be eased out abruptly.

How the then government could readily find 25 people of unblemished character in one sweep.

This leaves much room to apprehend about their credentials wildly particularly, in the backdrop that men of authenticity are extremely hard to find in Pakistan.

The reason is 360-degree degeneration morally in the country. It is a known fact that the country is in the hands of mafias.

They have effective ingress in the judicial system and important state institutions and government is constrained to watch it almost as a spectator from afar.

The government also does not make a secret of it as Imran Khan has nearly said so two days back. He cannot fight against mafias alone. People have to stand against them in unison.

The Judiciary has to come forward. A question arises who could prevent mafias to infect this EAC also.

They may have the linkages already within the body. Too many cooks could even spoil a whole range of feast and we have barely a meal with a whole range of problems.

EAC was also a non-starter earlier and given conditions, is unlikely to yield better even fractionally now as well. This is an exercise in futility thus, does not merit too much reliance.

In extreme times, unity of command assumes a greater importance. Though Hammad Azhar is young of age yet exudes enough confidence and perception about the economy.

Imran Khan needs to trust him and lend him the support to forge ahead. He also needs to help him in selection of his dedicated team, not mere the advisory from so many mouths.

Pakistan needs about 200 honest and competent people as top executives. This fact is also known to him because in the past, he said so, however, is continuously failing to find them.

It is imperative and could cost him and the country very heavily. On his part, his continued failure is increasingly becoming an unpardonable act in the eyes of the people.

Though people of above blend are rare yet available but are sitting on sidelines or vegetating at homes.

— The writer, a retired Lt Col, is a senior columnist based in Islamabad.