Blunders

opinionIt is generally accepted that the origins of all great theories and inventions were accidental, and in the same spirit, one seems to have stumbled upon the Theory of Evolutionary decay of news channels.

Left to their own designs, news channels eventually frustrate to an extent that the populace rises up in arms demanding an about-face to the golden days of one national news channel…blissful peace. Decidedly, the theory borrows from Karl Marx’s critique of capitalism, but desperate times call for desperate action. In the meantime, enduring the constant barrage of debates and discussions, what is rather befuddling is that the participants on the endless stream of chat shows cannot seem to agree upon anything.

Pertinently, the nation’s current state of affairs is either attributable to fate, in which case prayers are the only option, or is directly ascribable to the action, or inaction of those who have been at the helm of affairs. In the latter case, it would seem prescient to fix responsibility of blunderous conduct, not for the sake of criticism or blame game for that matter, but purely to learn from history. Being apolitical, and hence unable to generally comment upon conventional beliefs, but if democracy’s evolution is dependent upon an informed electorate, then is identification of blunders and those responsible not the key objective of a free press? That being the case, the never ending debate on who was responsible for what is quite disturbing, especially where history is concerned.

While it is natural for party stalwarts to vehemently defend respective past actions or inactions, expert analysts have a larger role to play, simply by forcing a conclusion on past events and pinning responsibility once and for all; in essence, the act of fearlessly calling a spade a spade. On a separate note, it is advisable to rotate party spokespersons on news channels on a regular basis; the same faces everyday does become monotonous. Nonetheless, the first step in such an exercise would be to identify and agree upon the causes that have led to the current flood of political, economic, security, and a host of other problems plaguing Pakistan today: the blunders. A related problem of being apolitical is also that one is clueless about political history.

Seriously, it is quite embarrassing to be in a discussion where everyone else can recall minute details of every electoral constituency; personally, one struggles with naming the last ten presidents of the country. And herein lays the problem; different segments of civic society will have different versions of causation; what is good for the goose may not work for the gander! For instance, there can be a view that all of Pakistan’s problems have emanated out of a mismanaged economy, especially considering that the nation is amply blessed with natural resources. On the other hand, there are those who believe that strangulation of speech is the root of everything.

Assuming this formidable hurdle of identifying the blunders is scaled, the next challenge is to determine and agree whether a different path actually existed for the decision makers to have ventured upon. In the absence of another option, the outcome can only be termed a fait accompli. For instance, let’s analyse the drone issue. How does one restrain the only superpower, who has, again and again, demonstrated its resolve to protect physically its interests across the globe? Whether an act of war or not, is it wise to declare war against the nation’s lender of last resort, who is also technologically way far superior? The fact that their leadership is voted in for a second term is ample proof that the nation stands behind its government’s actions; drones were not even an electoral issue for them.

And let’s not be confused over friendship, they have always asserted that whatever relationships exist are transactional only. Perhaps it would be more productive if Pakistan also viewed its relationships on a need basis. Nonetheless, the point is that it would be unfair to judge the current leadership on the eventual outcome of this particular initiative. Finally, there has to be a time limit on how far back in time should blunders be identified. In these fast moving times, personally, anything that happened more than two decades ago is irrelevant, even if it had a bearing on events today. Accordingly, identification of blunders entails that, in each case, the eventual impact of action or inactions within the last two decades can be credibly argued, and another pragmatic option can be clearly identified.

For instance, the decision to privatise news has resulted in engaging the populace in the futile pursuit of unproductive discourse, which has no economic benefit. Certain knowledge might be useful, but without the wherewithal to digest such information, the end product can only be utter confusion. While on the topic, if privatisation is the preferred path, than by default, nationalisation was a blunder. Placed in this context, there will immediately be a division of opinions at the political level, but unfortunately, this is more an economic issue. Blindsided by antiquated notions, it would be useful in this particular case to analyse whether the west itself is practising now what it has preached for some decades. Take another example; if unregulated cross border flow of capital is necessary for globalisation and its related benefits, why does the IMF now believe that controls on capital flow under certain conditions are desirable? Note that controls on capital flows adversely impacts FDI.

Excessive national debt, especially foreign debt, is considered to be disastrous for any economy. An analysis of debt contracted by each previous regime is than a criterion for determining inappropriate decisions. Unfortunately, even this is not simple, for such an analysis would entail a concurrent review of a host of other factors, including foreign trade, workers remittance and nature of government spending. While trade deficits and government spending are controllable, the government has no control over workers’ remittances. If cheap electricity is critical for economic growth and employment, than inaction on big dams is a blunder. On the other hand, if meeting demand, irrespective of the cost, is more important, than IPPs were a brilliant strategy and should be actively pursued.

By now it must be evident to the readers that the author is deeply inclined towards the view that only actions that have a negative economic impact are blunders. Without economic activity, all else is nothing. There will be those who will argue that this in itself is fallacious, since if economic indicators were the sole criteria, dictatorships win hands down. Admittedly, a wider definition of blunders is needed, and one only hopes that this particular effort was able to identify the importance of such an exercise. If every government did an excellent job, than why is the populace struggling with inflation, unemployment, load shedding and much more? Somebody made a booboo, and it is imperative that these be identified to avoid repetition. With all this freedom and constant debate, it would be a disaster if the stakeholders cannot even build a consensus on blunders. -Dailytimes