NAJMUL HASAN RIZVI
“I admire your patriotic feeling to invest in the country’s industrial sector which is facing a downturn due to shortages of gas and electricity, but why do you want to start a paper mill?” I asked him. “Who needs paper today, newspapers have reduced pages and nobody wants to read any books.”
Mr Right smiled. “A paper factory will be a waste of money if it is meant to make paper for books and journals. I will produce something more useful and important.”
“Then you must be making tissue paper,” I guessed. “It’s frequently used everywhere from kitchens to cabinet meetings and from tea houses to toilets.”
“I will make paper for the government press,” said Mr Right. “Don’t you know they require a constant supply of paper these days to print currency notes?”
“Not a bad idea,” I said. “But considering the growing weakness of our currency they would have accepted even tissue paper for printing money.”
Mr Right grinned. “I hope it never happens otherwise many jolly-at-heart people will start keeping currency notes in their washrooms.”
“So your paper mill will try to help the government improve the quality of the rupee bill,” I said. “I believe like all other patriotic Pakistanis you stand for a strong currency.”
“Strong currency can be ensured by following the right economic policy, carrying out reforms, broad-basing taxes and keeping expenses under control,” Mr Right said. “But the problem is that nobody has been able to decide who would do all this.”
“Yes, we know the ailments afflicting the nation, but nobody is ready to find the cure,” I said.
“Those who took over the assignment to find a treatment for the country’s economic ills are themselves fighting for their lives in the emergency ward,” Mr Right observed.
“They are being treated in the democracy hospital,” I said. “But their stay has proved so costly that the country’s debts have shot up to astronomical levels.”
“But you must know that the size of both domestic and foreign loans is being estimated to be around $126 billion, including an external debt of $60 billion, is never a cause of worry for our leaders who think they have the guts to find newer sources for more loans,” Mr Right said.
“Although they have now proposed a committee to probe the causes of the increasing loan burden during the past 27 years, they will never hesitate to explore possibilities of new loans to keep the economy afloat,” I said. “It’s like putting a dying patient on ventilator.”
“But leaders have a different opinion about loans,” Mr Right said. “For them the size of a loan indicates the economic strength of the country to repay them.”
“Well, they should, however, remember what some sage has once said: Running into debt isn’t so bad. It’s running into creditors that hurts. And we are being surrounded by our creditors such as IMF, World Bank and others.”
“Who cares,” Mr Right shot back. “Loans are necessary to run the government and make the largest Cabinet sustainable. It’s also a way of helping banks to earn profits. Foreign debts too help the country strengthen its relations with the outside world.”
“But the problem is that nothing comes for free. Loans sometimes carry conditions that might clip our wings as a sovereign nation,” I pointed out.
“That’s an old concept,” Mr Right said. “In today’s global world it’s called inter-dependence. It’s like reconciliation, see how the ruling party has followed this policy to keep everybody in tow in its bid to gather more money, by all means, borrowing is only one way.”
“But who will scale this mountain of debts or the Mount of Poverty?” I said. “Is the present government willing or even equipped to do it?”
“Why should it bother?” Mr Right said. “This mountain of unpaid debts will be inherited by the next government who will try to earn more money to preserve it as a national heritage for the coming generations. The tradition will continue to be followed by every future government like all its predecessors.”