Telling it like it is

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Wednesday addressed the grave economic situation by issuing an SOS to the “political leadership” to help the government find a way out of the crisis. That he did this at a groundbreaking ceremony of Parliament Lodges phase-II, which cost the national exchequer an astounding Rs 3 billion, is, to put it mildly, ironic. In the aftermath of failing to implement RGST, the government has sent out this distress call because it realises that without political consensus, its days are numbered. Except for the SOS, the PM reiterated what we all know: that the war on terror and the global financial crisis has led to this sorry state of affairs. The miserly international response to the devastating floods last year showed us our place in the larger scheme of things. Meantime, the same blame game continued with the PM accusing the previous incumbents for the massive inflation we are witnessing and the lack of any addition to our energy resources. However, one would like to ask the PM this: in the three years since the PPP took over, what has his government done to address these woes? Has any significant progress been made to provide some relief to the masses? Unfortunately, not much.A ‘novel’ thought was also introduced by the PM: a growing population is burdening the economy. If the government has come to this ‘startling’ conclusion, has it identified any ways to tackle the issue? Are any population planning campaigns being implemented with urgency? The PM must surely be aware that mere statements will not be enough in the face of an 8-9 percent GDP deficit. The government is in a spectacular mess because of the shocking lack of energy, and previous ideas of short-, mid- and long-term measures to overcome the shortfall have proved severely flawed. Landing itself in thicker soup than when it first began, short-term measures like the RPPs recently faced the wrath of the Supreme Court, which ordered them to return with interest advances taken from the government since they had failed to fulfil their contract commitments. If initial measures cannot take off, little is to be expected of long-term solutions like IPPs and hydel, thermal, coal and alternative energy solutions. The government needs to match its actions with its words.

To add to the potpourri, the PML-Q has decided to add its five-point agenda to the PML-N’s 10-point one to address the failing economy. The PML-Q agenda in itself is perfectly acceptable in principle with its provisions of economic relief to the masses, addressing the energy shortfall, eliminating corruption, fixing law and order in Karachi and Balochistan (which, incidentally, are political conflicts), ending terrorism and revising our foreign policy. What Chaudhry Shujaat failed to do was explain how to go about implementing his vision of ‘dynamism’. With no clear plan, the PML-Q is just playing to the gallery. Nawaz Sharif has joined the chorus by admonishing the government that some provisions of his party’s 10-point agenda can be implemented within “45 minutes”. This is black comedy at its best. The country is so deep in its economic morass that it is obvious to anyone sensible that it will take a lot longer to fix the pathetic situation.Gilani’s government is arguably amongst the most incompetent in Pakistan’s history. The general perception that it is also highly corrupt has encouraged the flight of capital from the country while neither local nor foreign investors want to touch us. The PM would do well to note that so long as this perception exists, rightly or wrongly, economic progress and development will remain elusive will-o’-the-wisps, irrespective of the opposition’s pie-in-the-sky ‘agendas’ – Dailytimes