DR ZAFAR ALTAF
The budget timing does not allow for many innovative actions. The budget in modern times requires to be understood in a different light than what was done historically. The IT revolution and the speed of information as well as the awareness in the general public makes for a paradigm shift in thinking of the choices that make for a budget that is acceptable. There will always be a resource gap in what is urgently required by the country.
However, the strategy that is to be followed is what the Keynesians have so well articulated and implemented in the past. When Keynes was looking for full employment through public sector interventions he was also suggesting that later on was excellently utilised by governments and that was the multiplier effect. What this essentially did was to start interventions and that would over a period of time snowball into an intervention that was fed on its own resources.
What then are the challenges? Are the challenges what the WB and the ADB or the UN system suggest or should we have our own way of looking and doing things? One of the major reasons for the international options not to work is that one shoe does not fit everyone. Take the case of recession and banking crisis in the Eurozone and we see that the best of them are today the worst of them. Why? The question comes but the answers are not available to the most developed nations. Every one is pontificating.
Activity and TV shows abound and everyday the leading TV channels of the world have the latest on the working of the financial markets. Nothing seems to be going anywhere. With CEOs messing up everything and greed the only option the surprising part is that the nations of the world seem to be in a quandary so far as the ethics of the policymakers are concerned. Pakistan’s dilemma is different and more basic.
Knowledge or non-knowledge applied to the serving of the people will take things into a pretty mess. I have been saying this for a long time that there is a disconnect between the people and the policymakers in Islamabad. Budget time is about numbers but one has to go beyond numbers if one were to handle the situation. Numbers do not feel as humans do.
In any case the attention to numbers has any meaning only when it is understood that the implementers have knowledge that is not superficial and that they are the capable managers that this country has produced. The sorry state of the federal government these days is that every one is trying to save his or her skin as they have forgotten the idea of self censorship. When the system is in chaos this is what happens. The nature of things cannot be held in harmony. The budget is an instrument of harmony and not of dissonance.
So were the choices that were present before us as a country? Individuals do not matter. They never did when it comes to working the national economy. The budget is a national document and therefore sacrosanct. It is holy in that sense of the word. Since it has that tinge it must reflect as far as possible the wishes and aspirations of the people. No matter how well-endowed the country and how developed if it leans on one side the budget will go haywire and will never be evenly held. Is it constructed in such a manner that the majority of the people will be looked after? Does it have the right balanced? Is it reflective of the requirements-urgent requirements of the nation? What is more important – food security or national security carried out by the National security council chaired by the PM?
Is the stomach more urgent or the defending the borders? The policymaker has some intangible rules that it must follow. One of the most important is to have humility above all else. You will ask of me that is very funny way to play the numbers game. That is first upfront as the humility factor enables one to have listening ears. The din is so much that the chances are that the powerful elite will take away much more than what they require.
Their greed is phenomenal. I have seen them in the corridors of FBR lobbying away. I have seen them threaten the righteous policymakers and make life miserable for them. Will the budget look after the ones that were excluded form the benefits of the country? Will they look for interventions in PATA/FATA, NW and SW or will they be considered as usual in the periphery and therefore not important. If one has listening ears then ground realities are easy to understand. The issue now with the babu formation of the budget is that it will be totally pedantic and there will be no new options in it.
Unemployment, deficit and inflation will all creep in and the options will never be there. We have in Pakistan people (starting with the Shaukat Aziz) and now most of the expatriates that have expounded wisdom to the effect that the Agriculture sector is no longer to be considered as a productive sector. Why do they say this?
They say it on the basis of western brainwashed ideas that the contribution to GDP is about 21%. What do these numbers mean? Nothing. Statistics is not to be acceptable on two counts-first that these are not collected correctly and there is always a question-mark but the bigger situation is that even on facts they are found wanting. Majority of our population is in the rural areas and to this day they have been holding our fort so far as food security is concerned.
Remember that urban economics is sham economics. We have seen the USA, France, Spain, Germany and Greece lose out on urbanisation and the fact that the banking system was echoing what we had been saying for a long time that money in abundance always means the holder is a person of easy virtue. Those that sell themselves are the billionaires. The hard working people in this country are barely holding their body and soul together.
So is money essential? No it may be necessary but it is not essential. The essentials are the intangibles of the country’s policymakers. Will humility trump pride, will arrogance be taken over by tenacity and will the budget give that resilience to the system that is required if we are to live as free country? Can we build a people’s culture in what is essentially an impersonal system? Do numbers speak, do they have emotions and do they create the right emotions? While working at Karachi it was my responsibility to improve the slum areas and to create a new system for the people of Lalapul and for those that are now residing in Orangi Township.
Do you have any idea who your best players are and who are mere stragglers? Can you convert failures into winners? Can you have the vision of making little things become larger than life and in short can you use a grain of sand to change the course of a river? There are things in this world that one can do without the use of stinking money. The aid money stinks and I will have more to say about it and how it has polluted and perverted our thinking.
So will we have for our strategy a conscious realisation of what is required to be done? Or will we meander into meaningless things and meet the lust of the rich? I think that we need to work through our requirements and to take the slush money out and to hold all those dealing with public funds accountable. How will it look if I were to say that we need three new definitions – defining who so as to see the vision; defining what to know the vision; and defining when so as to keep faith with ourselves and our people?
Shall we put people first and not what we can amass for ourselves? Remember unintentional mistakes are correctable but intentional mistakes are not and sooner or later we will pay for it. Decision-making requires a large heart and a feeling that has almost become alien to us in Pakistan and in Islamabad. One life lost in the ego actions of this country is a life lost and the opportunity cost is horrendous.
Why go after unearned US dollars? Tighten our belts. Why not? Why are you making new roads that are for the rich and not needed? The cost of ‘Musharraf road’ was well guess. He has not got to live where this road was built. One is not surprised. It was made with blood money. The lesson for the policymakers is for next year. Go into this much earlier and seek to redress the issues.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2012
Incoming search terms:
- wheat production in pakistan
- dr Zafar altaf
- production of wheat in pakistan 2012
- ex chairman zafar altaf
- doctor zafar altaf ex chairman agriculture research institute
- doctor zafar altaf ex chairman agriculture research institute email address
- parc chairman dr zafar altaf
- ex chairman parc dr zafar altaf
- Info about DR Zafar Altaf
- dr zafar altaf on cotton