by Mohammed Sulaiman Abbasi
I am a Mechanical Engineer by training and profession. Being an Engineer, I have been trained to look at a problem and devise simple, cheap and practical solutions. It bothers me to no end that my country just seems to slide further and further down a slope from where there seems to be no recovery. I have been racking my brain to find a way out for my country for it present state of turmoil.
I have looked at Pakistan and its multitude of problems and to my Engineer’s mind the following seem to be worthy of attention. These are listed in order of importance.
1 – Crippling Debt
2 – Poor Economic performance (growth, low GDP etc)
3 – Illiteracy
4 – Erosion of moral values.
I have not even bothered to list, power cuts, growing gap between the rich and poor, the very strange political setup or even the issue of personal safety, terrorism etc.
As I have said, I am a simple Engineer with a simple view of the world. I am of the beliefs that if 1-4 are addressed; all other ills of my country will automatically fall in place.
Crippling Debt & Poor Economic Performance
Over the years, Pakistan has mismanaged its economic affairs. Balance of payments is totally skewed. Govt. expenditures far outstrip income. Over the years the country has become dependent on handouts from the US called “aid packages” etc. On top of the aid packages, Pakistan has taken loans from the World Bank and the IMF. As all of us know that once you owe money you are forced to dance to the tune of your creditors.
What is absolutely necessary is for Pakistan to get back on track is to rid itself of debt.
The way I see it is that Pakistan has to develop the industrial base. Mind, that the selection of the type of industry has to be done carefully with an eye on export oriented strategy. This will lead to the following:
a – Create jobs
b – Improve balance of payments by industrial output earning foreign exchange.
Of course, you may say, “It is easier said than done”. What needs to be done is to get 100% of the debt be paid off and we need to say to America, “Thank you for all you help but we don’t need any help”.
My proposal is rather simple.
We have very few allies left today. One of them is China. China and Pakistan have a very special relationship. Right from the start in 1947, China has stood by Pakistan. To be fair, Pakistan has been invaluable to China as well. A great deal of arms technology has reached China through Pakistan during the time when China was a closed country.
Chinese are a wise people not easily swayed by world events. They are not easily intimidated by the Americans. The Chinese are cautious people. Pakistan needs form a business alliance with China. Get China to pay off 100% of all monies owed to all the agencies to whom we owe money to in exchange for something China needs. Stop any and all money, technology, assistance, involvement (security related or other) from the USA. It is no secret that USA has not proved a friend of Pakistan and it has no sympathy for this country. The only country USA cares for is itself. We have been used and abused by America for its own gains. I do not blame the USA for this but it us and our short sightedness to blame! As the saying goes, “If you sleep with dogs you will get up with fleas”. Today we are totally flea ridden!
The question one can ask is why would China want to pay off Pakistan’s debt? We have nothing to offer them. Actually, I think there is something we can offer them. At the end of the day it is business. A business deal is where two parties can benefit from each other. We have already determined that Pakistan will benefit from China by it paying off Pakistan’s loan; but what does Pakistan have to offer China?
China has a huge growing giant of an economy. It has a huge hunger to fuel this economy, it needs to grow. The problem is that being a wise nation, China does not want to open up all its provinces too quickly to this economic revolution. China is a communist nation and new to this economic revolution. Wisely, it is cautious not to expose the whole county to this revolution and limiting this phenomenon to a few cities/areas (Shanghai, Beijing to name a few). What Pakistan can offer is full and free access to its land and warm waters of the Arabian Sea by hosting the Chinese explosion.
The business proposition Pakistan needs to work with China is that in exchange for paying off its debt, China can build as many factories it wants and take all profits from such investments – no questions asked. Mind you, the deal should include turn over of ownership to Pakistan after 20 years. If you look at the proposition from China’s point of view, in exchange for paying off Pakistan’s debt it will gain free access to land upon which it will build industry whose output will enter the world from the ports of Pakistan. What China needs to work out is the payback period for the original debt plus the investment of the huge industrial base it will setup in Pakistan. Usually viable business venture have a payback of 3 - 5 years. Having the ownership turn over of 20 years will give China ample time to turn a good profit.
By default, if China has to make money with its new industrial base, it will have to renovate the Pakistan’s tattered infrastructure to support the huge growth that will come. The salary scales in Pakistan are still low enough for Chinese firms to turn an easy profit by remaining competitive on the international market.
What Pakistan gains will be freedom form its debt and a creation of jobs at a level never imagined possible. There will inevitably be a sprouting of support industries around the main Chinese investment. Within a period of about 7 – 10 years the economy of this nation can be turned around and can come close to having a growth figures enviable by others.
In the above model, the economy of the country will be divided into two parts. (A) The economy driven by Chinese investment. Where all profits from this investment will be bagged by China. No taxes will be levied on this output so as to allow China to produce with the lowest overheads. (B) The economy of Pakistan in almost its present form. Its present industrial units, agricultural base and so on. Pakistan will continue to earn income from the usual taxes and export as it does now. The difference being that it will no longer have to pay anything towards its debts. The additional deposable income now available will be spent on education, developing infrastructure (along with the Chinese) and security.
Chinese investment towards industry can be in the form if industrial estates that can be guarded as in Al-Jubail Industrial City with limited access and the requirement of an official ID cards for the workers to enter. Certainly we cannot ignore the terrorism factor that will play to destabilize the Chinese onslaught of investment.
Electric power to support this level of investment will have to be via additional hydro electrical units or perhaps Nuclear Energy. There are vast reserves of coal that my also be used to generate energy. This will lead to environmental pollution, but, at this stage we cannot afford to be sensitive to such matters.
Note: Present level of expenditure on the defense needs to continue unchanged. I believe that we need our Air Force, Navy and the Army to be the strongest it can be. It should be so strong that any nation, USA, India, Afghanistan or any other are forced to think 10 times before taking us on.
With a population of about 60% under the age of 15 years, Pakistan will have to think radically outside the box.
Education up to the tenth grade has to be made compulsory. Teacher’s pay scales have to be revised to the point where teaching becomes a profession of choice attracting the finest minds.
We have enough Educational institution turning out Degree holders but the quality of curricula is very poor. We do not have any institutions that can lay claim to being the best, or second best or third best even the 50th best in the world. Our degrees are not recognized anywhere. Yes our professionals work all over the world but never as fresh graduates. What needs to be done is not to increase the number on Universities but to improve the quality of the output.
Not every child needs to become an Engineer, Doctor, Lawyer etc. mainly because the Pakistani Economy can only support just so many Professionals. However what is missing are Polytechnic institution turning out a trained work force. Our work force learns on the job from the “ustaad”. This is not a desirable state of affairs. Polytechnic institutions will invaluable in turning out skilled work force that will be ready to take up jobs in the Chinese industrial base proposed above.
Some of the funds now available to the Government as no more payments toward debt are necessary needs to be diverted to the Universities for the purpose of Research and Development.
There is another problem prevalent in the villages. This problem can be summed up as the resistance to the advent of education of the farmers by the feudal land lords. The fear being that if the common villager became educated then the power he has over them will erode in time. Thus it is often the case that teacher sent to a particular village is chased off and the government built school is used to house the cows of the feudal land lord. To address this situation, the school inspectors have to be empowered to stand up to the feudal lords with out any fear. They need to be accompanied by a group of armed police while doing village school inspections. Salaries of the School Inspectors need to be at a level that makes bribery pointless.
All village schools need to be to the matriculation level.
Once hope returns to the masses that education is the path to self betterment, the need for parents to enroll their children in Madrassas where some fool does systematic brain washing of young minds will eventually stop.
At the end of the day we all want peace, three decent square meals a day and hope for a bright future. A place where or kids will have a decent life. All of the above are deeply linked to the economic growth of a nation.
This is a tough one. We have reached a stage where the line between right and wrong no longer exists. Our moral fiber has been damaged beyond repair.
If I look back to my youth, it was my father who taught me to be honest no mater what. His vision of right and wrong was as sharp as a needle. He taught me never to loose sight of right and wrong even if it meant that by remaining truthful, I may suffer a loss. Never to lie, have the courage to say “What you are doing is wrong”.
How many fathers take the time and coach their sons on right and wrong. Judging from the rampant dishonesty and corruption in my country – not many.
Today an honest Policeman, Customs officer etc (if you can find one) is immediately transferred because he refuses to play ball. Our moral fiber has degenerated to a point where an honest person is referred to as “innocent”, “buffoon” or simply unworldly wise. It has been decades since I have heard any one call himself “sufaid poosh”. Instead of being proud of being “sufaid poosh”, we are ashamed. In our society, the more crocked one is and the more money one amasses by illegal means is directly proportional to the respect he is given.
Isn’t that a shame?
So how to restore our nations moral fiber? That is indeed a tough one.
It is our religious leaders (imams) who are responsible for taking care of the nation’s moral fiber. But our imams are ill equipped to carry out the sensitive task entrusted to them. Instead they have their own agendas of invoking young impressionable minds towards violence.
All imams must be certified to be able to hold that position. All imams must be graduates of an Islamic University and must have at least a BA degree in Islamic Studies with a minor in Education as a minimum qualification before he is able to hold a microphone in the Masjid. Additionally, they must be on the Ministry of Religious affairs payroll. The Friday “khutba” must be an official document prepared by the Ministry of Religious affairs. All imams must stick to this document during the Friday sermon.
It is sad to say that despite the steps mentioned above there is little hope restore our moral fiber. Perhaps a more radical approach will be to start with the three year olds and build an entire new generation of morally true nation.
As I said this is a very difficult task to do with desirable outcome.
In Summery, it is not an easy task to turn around my country but until and unless a major, radical change from the root up is brought about there is very little hope. In fact chances are that if left to its own devices, this country will most certainly be carved up by USA. USA will engineer its breakup with the North seceding to Afghanistan and Punjab/Kashmir to India. Perhaps Baluchistan may become a new independent country and so may Sindh. It is hard to say what will become of Pakistan.
Nothing is impossible as long as there is a will to do so. One thing is for certain, we just cannot allow Pakistan’s to remain in its present state.