Poorer voters, richer reps

Perhaps, the greatest misfortune, in a country which is weighed down with plenty of them, is the widening gap between the haves and the haves-not. Almost invariably, the powerful and influential persons of Pakistan are seen getting richer, and the man in the street becomes worse off. But the case of the public representatives trebling their assets in the past six years’ time, while large sections of their electorate have been forced to scale down their standard of living in that period, is all the more striking. It cannot fail to raise eyebrows and create all kinds of doubts, considering the corruption-ridden society we live in.
One would have expected the MNAs to work for improving the lot of their voters, in accordance with the commitments that they would have undoubtedly made at the hustings, even if at times their own interests were to be put at stake. Instead, we find the situation reversed, and virtually all of them better off than they had been before. Strangely, the high growth in the average value of a public representative’s wealth, as computed by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (Pildat), has come about during the period of time of which at least a year had witnessed an acute economic crisis and an uncontrollable inflationary spiral in all goods and services. The businesses have been down, with the industrial and commercial classes justifiably complaining about ever costlier and, at the same time, vanishing power supply and other inputs, compelling them to shut down their factories and shopping centres. The exporters have been left with fewer customers, as their competitors, less encumbered with high cost of production, have driven them out of the market. The common man and the fixed salaried groups, on the other hand, have had to suffer joblessness; thus, poverty has been on the rise. The coup de grâce has come in the form of devastating floods. While we are in a fix, hoping that the floods do not cause food scarcity, an FAO report details that there has been about 10 percent drop in global hunger in one year. For most of us, it would be news to learn that the international food prices have come down since 2008.

The scenario is a wake-up call for our leadership. Urgent and well-thought-out measures need to be taken to narrow the rich-poor gap, to give a lie to the increasing calls for revolution. Austerity in all spheres of life and an end to corruption, favouritism and mismanagement should become the golden rule for the entire nation. It would also be in order, as asked for by Transparency International (Pakistan), for the FBR to probe into the tax returns of the MNAs. After all, the Pildat report is based on their declarations to the Election Commission and cannot be questioned – Nation