‘Tis Folly to be Wise….

Spearhead Analysis – 12.10.2018

By Farrukh Karamat
Senior Research Coordinator, Spearhead Research

Where ignorance is Bliss, ‘Tis Folly to be Wise…[Thomas Gray}

Hardly 60 days after assuming power, the Imran Khan led PTI Government is being berated for the dire faults of the ousted PML-N led Government. The fault lies partly in the fact that PTI and Imran Khan in their pre-election campaign speeches had set the moral and economic expectation bar very high, without paying heed to the intricacies of governance and difficulties in meeting those expectations. The fault also lies in the indecisiveness exhibited by the Government during its initial days; an undue emphasis on optics; and an inability to form a competent team focused on deliverables. Perhaps the euphoria of coming into power clouded the initial ability to govern, and what they perceived as their infinite wisdom was in fact their own hubris.

Certain early decisions have proved to be contentious – the decision to appoint Mr. Buzdar as Chief Minister of Punjab is one such decision. Recently Imran Khan came out in strong support of the beleaguered CM, based on the flimsy grounds that he comes from an ‘impoverished’ background and does not have electricity in his house. If such is the criteria for appointing a CM for Punjab, there would have been many more ‘highly-qualified’ candidates lined up to occupy the exalted office.

The recent resignation of Nasir Durrani as the Head of the Punjab Police Reforms Commission is another accolade that the government could have done without, after the recent unceremonious exit of three eminent Economists.

The unnecessary delay in finalizing the arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is another example of glaring incompetence. Given the economic condition of the country and the tall claims and criticism of the past government, one expected that PTI had completed their homework and would have hit the ground running. The ideal strategy would have been to simultaneously approach multiple funding options to avoid wasting time. The fact that they waited for 60 days before deciding to approach the IMF can at best be described as disastrous. The Rupee went into a free fall and the stock exchange lost 1400 points in a single session. The uncertainty created by the government has also hurt investor sentiment and damaged the possibility of attracting immediate inward investment. The fact that Imran Khan vowed to commit suicide rather than contract additional debt, has not helped the government. Nor has the indecisiveness exhibited by the Finance Minister aided in infusing confidence into a tottering economic system.

The decision to build five million houses is another contentious one that reminds us of the Ashiana scandal for which the last CM is under investigation. Requiring enormous amount of financial resources including land, this is a decision that Pakistan can ill-afford at the moment. For now, while the announcement has been made to launch the scheme, no concrete plan is visible in terms of achieving the end objective of five million homes.

Contrary to earlier claims the coterie of Ministers, Advisors and Consultants continues to expand, giving an impression that this is being done to pay-back those individuals, rather than focusing on deliverables. It is also creating an impression that PTI does not have a core team of competent individuals to make good on the promises they made.

The proposals in the mini-budget and then the back tracking on those proposals under pressure from the Senate and Parliament, also smacks of an ill-conceived strategy to enhance revenues. The proposals actually portrayed an image of a government under pressure without an actual plan scrambling for ideas. So far the image is that of an extractive government that is trying to pressurize the moneyed to dole out funds to the poor. The focus should have been on encouraging the rich to contribute to the economic development for the overall benefit of the country. Instilling fear among all is not the solution; bringing the corrupt to justice through a legal process and creating conditions conducive for productively channelizing the funds would have been a far better path. The Prime Minister needs to realize that when he speaks, he is addressing the Nation and not the opposition.

While it is true that the PTI led government has inherited a system that is steeped in corruption, chaos and incompetence, unfortunately they willingly acquired the mandate to fix all the ills plaguing Pakistan. One had hopes that they had completed the ground work and would chart out a plan for the economic revival of the country. Unfortunately, they apparently are starting to appear clueless in the statecraft of governance. One had high hopes from the slogan of change, hoping for a positive direction for the country, sadly that direction so far is muted and negative. Raising hopes is one thing, delivering to match those hopes is another. It is high time that PTI starts to focus on delivering.