The G20 Summit in New Delhi on September 9-10 should have been an eye-opener for Pakistan. However, it does not seem so.
We are complacent as usual. There is a glaring absence of a serious debate in the print and electronic media on the economic fallout that Pakistan will face on account of realignment of elements, including one of our main sources of cash as a last resort.
In one of his articles of five-part ‘Learning From Others’ series carried by this newspaper earlier this year, this writer drew comparisons between the of economies of Pakistan and India in 2002 and 2023.
On a personal note, it was iterated that when this writer was in 2008 the President of South Asian Federation of Accountants (SAFA), which has its headquarters in India’s capital, there were frequent visits to this city as well as country’s economic and financial hub Mumbai.
At that time, Lahore and Karachi airports were much better than the airports of these two very important Indian cities. Their airports were filthy and not at all customer friendly. However, a decade later, this writer observed that New Delhi’s new airport was better than even Heathrow in London or the JFK in New York.
How did this profound transformation take place in a matter of one decade or so? Pakistanis have to learn the manner in which infrastructure in India underwent such a huge transformation. Now almost all the major cities of India have mass transit programs whereas Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan, does not possess any such system. At present, we are at least 50 years behind India.
Despite these apparent shortcomings even our mainstream media peddles an outrageous narrative that conveys, albeit unsuccessfully, a belief that a time will come when Pakistan will ultimately conquer India. The purpose of this series of articles is to identify the primary reasons for these differences in growth and economic gap between the two almost identical societies that were part of one country just over 75 years ago. The following are differentiating factors:
Lack of rigidity
History has proved that Indians are not rigid in their decision-making processes. At the time of Partition of the subcontinent the status of India was as under:
The Union of India was consequently established from 6 former Indian provinces/presidencies (East Punjab, United Provinces, Central Provinces, Madras, Bombay, Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal and Assam) and 562 former princely states.
At present, there are twenty eight (28) provinces and eight (8) union territories of India. All the provinces have been created on the basis of ethnic, cultural and linguistic homogeneity. For example, Haryana is originally a Hindi-speaking state which was carved out of the former state of East Punjab.
Karnataka is Kannada-speaking southwestern state of India whereas Tamil-speaking modern Tamil Nadu state emerged from the Madras Presidency of British Administration.
The differences of views in India were as strong as those were witnessed in Pakistan. India was facing the prospect of secession of Tamil Nadu from the Union at the time of linguistic determination under the Constitution. However, their politicians were mature enough to overcome those crises and all such matters were ultimately settled.
On the other hand, in Pakistan, we are in the habit of consolidating various governing units based on myopic political considerations and ill-conceived expediencies such as One Unit in 1954 and the 1956 and 1962 Constitutions. Despite an almost 100 percent increase in population after the arrival of the 1973 constitution, no new province was carved out.
Any such endeavor is viewed with suspicion. The lingering demand for the creation of a ‘Seraiki province’ is a strong case in point.
All the political parties promise the establishment of a ‘Seraiki province’ before every general election, but do not act in this regard after elections.
The absurdity can be gauged from the fact that there is hardly any cultural or linguistic affinity between a person living in Hub, which is almost a part of Karachi although it’s a part of Balochistan province, and a person living in Loralai, a town of the same province but at a distance of almost 1,000 kilometers from the former.
The seat of government in Balochistan is Quetta, which is over 700 kilometers from Hub. This rigidity is the biggest cause of stagnation of economic development in the country. Pakistanis are strangely placed insofar as their approach to the subjects of governance and devolution is concerned.
Homegrown finance ministers
The list of Finance Ministers of India from 1947 to 2023 in comparison to those in Pakistan during the same period reflects the reason behind the growing gulf between economic policies and the implementation. Morarji Desai, Indira Gandhi, Dr Manmohan Singh and V P Singh, for example, served as Finance Ministers before they became country’s Prime Ministers. The list does not include any imported person of Indian origin to head the government. All were genuine political workers and except Indira Gandhi, Dr Manmohan Singh and P. Chidambaram, no one was foreign educated.
This writer penned an article about the Finance Ministers of Pakistan sometime ago. He started with unelected Malik Ghulam Muhammad to bureaucratic supremo Ghulam Ishaq Khan.
The present Finance Minister of India is Nirmala Sitharaman. She obtained a degree in economics from the Seethalakshmi Ramaswami College, Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu, which is affiliated to Bharathidasan University, in 1980, Master of Arts in economics and M Phil degrees from JNU in New Delhi in 1984.
Unfortunately, however, people without foreign degrees are not treated with much respect in Pakistan. The results are obvious.
Economics relates to the common man in particular circumstances. Our rulers from 1947 onwards remained disconnected from the masses due to absence of general elections and in 1957/1958 we ended up under a Martial Law administration with a strong military presence.
As such, the Ministry of Finance has never been able to relate itself to the common man of Pakistan. ‘Q’ Block of Pakistan Secretariat (Ministry of Finance) in Islamabad is divorced from Pakistan.
(To be continued on Wednesday)
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023