For any country, especially developing countries, corruption, lawlessness and lack of accountability of all citizens, are the three main factors that hamper the countries from providing a reasonable level of social justice, an acceptable life style to their citizens and achieving their full potential. Unfortunately, Pakistan lacks all three.
In a speech made by Quaid-e-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah to the First Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on 11th Aug 47, the Quaid said: “One of the biggest curses from which India is suffering, I do not say that other countries are free from it, but, I think our condition is much worse, is bribery and corruption. That really is a poison. We must put it down with an iron hand.”
While the Paci website states that: “Corruption is widely recognized as a major obstacle to the stability, growth and competitiveness of economies. Business has a unique opportunity to join forces with governments and other stakeholders to find lasting solutions to problems of corruption and to create a level playing field for today’s globalised markets.”
And at a recent anti-corruption workshop conducted by Paci in India: “Lack of enforcement of the legal and regulating framework for addressing corruption is often cited as a major impediment to promoting real change, especially in the business environment. Moreover, lack of coordination and conflicting mandates between the different actors – business, government, civil society – reduce the effectiveness of anti-corruption and transparency measures.”
Today, due to continuous bad governance and our failure to enforce the rule of law and establish accountability, we have been unable to attract investment and our foreign exchange reserves continue to fall and we have just enough funds to cover five weeks of imports.
No doubt, the $6.5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, has come in very handy, but was hardly an achievement, as IMF had no choice. Uncle Sam and our allies realize, that if Pakistan is pushed in to default, then the Enemies Within, that lurk in our misty mountains, would spring into action and create havoc, not only in Pakistan, but in the entire region.
So, when our thrice elected, globetrotting PM, tried to sweet-talk the Pakistani business community during his recent visit to the US, by telling them : “There are few places in the world today that so uniquely offer the promise of land, geography and people as does Pakistan”, it may have sounded good and a definite winner, but more of wishful thinking and a bit delusionary, as according to World Bank’s annual ‘Doing Business’ report 2014, Pakistan has slid further down in the list, because it has failed to undertake any business regulatory reforms. Today, the electronic media has become so fast and informative, that it can send graphic videos and pictures of any incident that takes place in a country, around the world within minutes. And Pakistan, unfortunately, because of the constant chaos and turmoil in the country, is a leading player in Breaking News in the world in this matter.
Unfortunately, our resolve to root out corruption at the highest level of government and society has been weak and even today, the octopus of corruption and lawlessness are part of his government.
So just talking, chest beating and vowing to take stern action against the corrupt and the law breakers, with an ‘Iron Hand” is not going to make any difference and the curse of corruption is more deep rooted than before. In spite of civil and military governments, corruption has thrived and has now spread its poisonous tentacles into every section of society and government.
Therefore if the government is really determined to root out corruption, then it must introduce a zero-tolerance, anti-corruption policy, under which all are held accountable, starting from the very top.
In his recent article, ‘Curse of Corruption’ in the News, (http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-209869-Curse-of-corruption), my friend, Ikram Sehgal has written:
“Lack of coordination and conflicting mandates between the different actors, business, government and civil society – reduce the effectiveness of anti-corruption and transparency measures.”
While the Asian Development Bank has warned that the new IMP program is at risk, as “most of the required reforms have political and governance dimensions which posed formidable barriers in the past”.
ADB has also stated that the greatest barrier is, “The unwillingness of the ruling elite to tax the rich and powerful. The second is the patronage-based personalized style of governance”.
Therefore, unless the unless PML-N government breaks the old moulds of governance and introduce the much needed changes and reforms prepared by professionals, who know their business, the legacy of corruption remain will remain.
At the same time, according to latest figures compiled by the World Bank, Pakistan ranks most exposed to poverty risks among 43 countries, with the poverty rate jumping from 23.9 percent to 37.5 percent in three years. This, according to WB is “devastating".
While the CPRID study shows that 63 percent of the poor in Pakistan are in the category of 'transitory poor'. The remaining 32 percent and five percent of the population, living below the poverty line, are 'chronic' and 'extremely poor'.
The chronic and extremely poor households are those that are always below the poverty line during a defined period. Such a wide gap between the Haves and the Have Not’s is a ticking time-bomb which could explode with devastating consequences.
Under these circumstances, Pakistan is unlikely to attract large-scale private sector foreign investment now or in the foreseeable future, given its precarious security situation and a weak state with dysfunctional institutions.
In the last five months, Mr. Sharif has had the opportunity to launch important economic, social and security reforms in the country, but seems to have lacked the political will or the courage to do so.
So unless the government gets its act together, retires the present lot surrounding the PM and appoint a clear headed Foreign Minister, a sound national Security Adviser and a Finance Minister, who is an economist and is well versed on the current problems and hardships facing the common man, the situation will not change. All these appointments must be made on merits only and should be of men who are capable of tackling these issues that are frustrating the majority of the citizens.
If the PML-N government does not take these corrective actions, then it might not be able to finish its five year term.
n The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org