Any Ideas for Self-Reliance?

Nobody can deny the fact that a strong economy makes a strong country. Despite recalling Stanley Kubrick’s brutal quote that great nations have always acted like gangsters and small nations like prostitutes, I would really like to overlook all the realism, because after all the truth is that only self-reliance can help a country earn a strong place among the nations of the world.  Pakistan is quite large actually, so presuming that it could do a fairly decent job. This is why I think, like so many of the Pakistani “nationalist” parties, although I don’t share their vain fervor, that Pakistan should rely on its own resources instead of the US or other foreign aid.

Today, May 20, we received the good news that the Government of Punjab has finally taken the lead in doing so and have cancelled no less than 6 MoUs that were meant to help for health, education and solid waste management. I can’t recall myself being happier than I am right now because finally someone in Pakistan has some ideas to utilize local resources for resolving these troubling issues, which are among the greatest problem areas in Pakistan.  I appreciate that and wish the rest of the country would have such ideas as well. But is it really so?

Wait, isn’t the Government of Punjab broke? And why have they chosen the areas of health, education and solid waste management for canceling the aid agreements? Would that not have been useful instead, since they are not being able to properly offer those facilities otherwise anyway? Do the people of Punjab have good access to health services? Are the medical professionals in the province even being paid well? Why has not the Pakistani military, the defenders of the nation, ever graced the nation with cancelling the US military aid deals which we can very much do without? Even the US people would thank us for that. But why civilian aid, and why these particular areas of the economy?

Despite those troubling questions, let us be optimists instead of cynics. I really expect them to find a way out. Although they have little idea that acquiring additional loans is as disastrous to self-reliance as are the aid grants, but I still expect the Government of Punjab to mobilize local resources to arrange for funds for the needful area of health, education and solid waste management. The presentation of the federal and provincial budgets is just around the corner anyway. I hope they come up with something better than the “Sasti Roti Scheme“.

Now correct me if I am wrong, but this only looks like a political statement and nothing realistic. Don’t feel excited, Pakistani people, it is the same old story. But we can still change our minds if the Punjab Government can offer an alternative plan of financing the public service projects that the US aid was supposed to cover. Yes, we want to hear some solid financing plans and not just political slogans of “breaking the beggar’s bowl”. Well, guess what. The “beggar’s bowl” has not been broken, because the beggar is still there. Either admit that you are a nation that needs aid, especially from the United States, for building its infrastructure and providing basic necessities to its citizens, or stop with the self-reliance nonsense if you are not able to offer the people what they deserve, if you really want to offer them that, that is.

But isn’t it hopeless to expect any sense from a country which allocates only 0.7% of its GDP on health, which is only 0.26% of the budget expenditure (Rs. 7.3 b) and barely over 1% of the budget expenditure on education (Rs. 34.5 b). Check the Budget in Brief 2010-11. So does the United States Congress recommend us to compile and approve our fiscal plans? I don’t think so. We do that ourselves and these are the priorities we have for our people. That is all we can spend on their health and education. And the fact that a 12% increase is proposed in military spending this year (Rs. 495 b from Rs. 442 b, roughly 16% of the budget expenditure in 2010-11), only adds insult to injury. Don’t believe me, check this out. It may not be too accurate, but tells the story.

Also see how Pakistan ranks among the countries of the world as far as the expenses on defense, health and education are concerned. Not even in the top 100 in the education list. Maybe there is a problem with the people who are running the country, instead of with foreign aid.

Percentages never lie because they show what your priorities are, despite your volume.

OK, enough with the criticism. Let’s talk about the plans for arranging some revenue. Federal subject or provincial subject, how about taxing the rich? Even the United States, the country which supposedly violated our sovereignty is concerned about the way we collect our taxes. I mean, come on, at least they are honest, even if they violate your sovereignty every now and then. So would you tax the richest in Pakistan for generating more revenue? Do let us know if you can, because that principle is very much contrary to whatever you believe in? But there hardly is any other way of achieving sovereignty and self-reliance, is there?

The fact of the matter is that every politician or public figure should be required to present a feasible alternative financial plan whenever they are talking about self-reliance or taking steps like canceling aid agreements for civilian use, or else they should shut up or stop fooling the general public with the ideas of self-reliance and national sovereignty because their standard of living will suffer for their politics. Yes, accepting foreign aid and loans makes you vulnerable as a country, but in order to be self-reliant and independent, you need to have an income and a way to finance all your expenditure.

Alright, maybe I’m only as creative as Imran Khan in my ideals for nationalistic economic freedom, such as tax collection. Any ideas for Self-Reliance anybody? Anything concrete? Maybe it’s only good in theory.

Was our self-reliance not violated when we accepted the Chinese offer for aid and soft term loans? I’d say no to that as well, because it compromises your self-reliance. And what about those 50 JF-17 jets that we want to receive before too long? Defense, cool, but can we afford that? Pakistan faces a power shortfall of 6,000 MWs as I write these lines. Where did we get that kind of cash from?  Or is China “granting us those jets”, like aid.

Maybe we could sell those jets to buy furnace oil for our power generators, or even better to increase the health and education budget for the children of FATA, KP, Punjab, Sindh, and Balochistan.

We, the People, don’t give a shit about jets which will never be used to improve our lives.