About turn

Once upon a time, there was a coalition government of two political parties that had spent the 90’s bickering with each other. They had both inherited a country facing several grave problems, the economy being one of them. Soon after the elections, both the principal financial mandarin and spin doctor-in-chief conducted a joint press conference to give a “charge sheet” of sorts, on how the previous government had mismanaged the economy. either of the two – Ishaq Dar and Sherry Rehman – are now part of the cabinet. The former, because his PML(N) parted ways with the government; the latter, no longer the information minister but a simple parliamentarian owing to ruling party intrigue and what have you. But hacks in the capital will recall how Mr Dar held the Shaukat Aziz dispensation responsible for the terrible fiscal crunch on account of, amongst other things, a refusal to pass on the increase in petrol prices to the public for populist reasons and footing the bill instead.How times change. For what was once deemed criminally irresponsible is now being presented by the PML(N), amongst others, as necessary. Ditto for subsidies on electricity tariffs as well. And that is just the expenditures end. On the revenue side, these parties present an extremely spirited opposition to the implementation of the RGST. This is a tax, which will, by the way, not increase the sales tax but will merely spread it out to all stages of value addition rather than just the retail end. It won’t really contribute much to inflation, but will build up the database for income tax.When it rains, it pours. Because in the midst of this political tough spot, comes intimation from the IMF that it would cease to support the government unless there are immediate measures to implement the reforms agenda. Even if the fund were to be more understanding, there really is no way to maintain the status quo without borrowing more from the central bank, which will fuel even more inflation, making the problem more ripe still for exploitation by the opposition.
Having to take tough, unpopular decisions is one of the burdens of governance. It would do the PML(N) a whole lot of good to realise the tough spot the PPP is in. After all, it may well be on the treasury benches in the future. Certain issues should not be kosher for politicking – PT