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21-11-2010, Sunday
Economic subjugation

The economy is fast plummeting and worse is still to come if curative measures are not taken on a war-footing

By Huzaima Bukhari and Dr. Ikramul Haq
Resistance against subjugation — in colonial and neo-colonial era — was once a most cherished value that received praise from great thinkers, many of whom kindled such movements through their writings.

Resistance literature is part of our great human heritage. It has long been a source of resilience and self-esteem for nations that defeated imperialists and neo-colonial forces to earn liberation from exploitation and alien rule.

Unfortunately, the Late Neo-colonial forces in the wake of 9/11 cleverly managed to counter genuine liberation and resistance movements against their hegemonic designs under the pretext of "war against terror". This is, no doubt, one of the most lamentable strategies of the late Neo-colonialists, in which religious fanatics are their main accomplices.

Pakistan is facing multi-faced subjugation. Our subjugation is a self-inflicted phenomenon — our leadership, both military and civilian, has surrendered before late Neo-colonial forces. Yet the people of Pakistan have not surrendered. They are showing resilience even during extreme hardship when basic necessities like sugar and wheat flour are being rendered as rare commodity for them.

Economic subjugation, dictates of the IMF and other donors, wrongdoings of the people at the helm of affairs, unprecedented luxuries enjoyed by the rulers at taxpayers’ expense — all cumulatively — have culminated into an economically unviable state.

Our political and economic subjugation is now complete, or so it seems. The issue of gold and copper reserves at Reko Dik in Balochistan clearly testifies to this. Repeated requests of civil and military leadership to the Prime Minister of Pakistan and American President to ask NATO forces not to violate territorial boundaries of Pakistan is a slap in the face of this nation.

It is not diplomacy but utter submission before those who are the main cause of the present-day crisis in our tribal areas and elsewhere. The forces of obscurantism are used by these late Neo-colonial forces to make us subservient. The need of the hour is to mobilise people against late Neo-colonialists and their cronies — the militants who are exploiting religion for self-interest.

For resisting subjugation, we need to pay immediate attention to pressing issues: foreign forces attacks in our tribal areas, rising wave of militancy, discord amongst coalition partners, horrifying debt burden, worsening balance of payments position, undesirable increase in wasteful expenditure, growing unemployment, widening trade and fiscal deficits, high cost of doing business, burden of new taxes, increases in utility bills, failure of revenue authorities to tap actual revenue potential of over Rs.3trillion and industrial meltdown — just to mention a few.

The economy is fast plummeting and worse is still to come if curative measures are not taken on a war-footing. People’s purchasing power is diminishing, banks have less liquidity, lending rates are exorbitantly high and activities at stock markets are sluggish. The investors are shy and afraid, mainly due to perpetuation of political instability and economic uncertainty. Life for the common man on the streets is becoming a misery leading to social restlessness.

Although we claim to be an agricultural economy yet a vast majority of the people do not have enough to eat. It is tragic that we even import agricultural products and have miserably failed to develop any worthwhile agro-based industry in the last six decades.

Look at the mess our successive governments, military and civilian alike; have created on the debt front. The figure of foreign debt is a monstrous US$55 billion — it is going to be US$75 billion in 2015 — and that of domestic debt is over Rs.5trillion now.

Both the external and internal debts are increasing at a frightening rate. The way we are managing our resources is criminal and is leading us to self-annihilation. Fiscal deficit of over Rs1 trillion is expected during the current fiscal year. This testifies to bankruptcy of our political leadership and IMF-imposed economic managers who keep on relying on incompetent and corrupt bureaucracy.

The policy of appeasement towards tax evaders, money launderers and plunderers of national wealth is showing its impact in all spheres: political culture of changing loyalties continues. In this bleak scenario, our political leaders have no definitive plans how to come out of crises.

The most worrisome sector of economy is agriculture. The rural population is constantly being pushed below the poverty line, making all the targets of growth unachievable. If we have to develop economically, agriculture will have to play a critical role in the fight against poverty.

Vital areas like mechanisation, irrigation, plant protection and improved seeds have not been given proper attention although on paper there are many departments (including agricultural universities) spending millions and millions on claiming to have achieved wonders. In reality, even the issue of loans to small farmers is nothing but just another scandalous affair where a few are making a lot of money in the name of poor farmers.

The industries are already over-taxed but instead of getting any relief, these are being asked to pay even more exorbitant taxes. Fiscal laws impose a number of obligations on citizens but in return they do not get guarantee of life and protection of property what to talk of basis facilities like education, health and housing.

To top it all, a draconian sword hangs on taxpayers as FBR officers issue notices for default for acts not committed willfully. There is no political will to tax the mighty sections of society and the entire tax burden is being shifted on the poor through indirect taxes either in the form of sales tax, federal excise duty or presumptive taxes in the so-called direct taxes — IMF’s insistence on VAT, now renamed as Reformed General Sales tax (RGST), will have inflationary effect and it will push more and more people below the poverty line.

When half of the population of the country is facing malnourishment, wasteful expenditure continues unabated. The grim truth of Pakistan is the habit on the part of the rulers and their lackeys to indulge in self-deception by relying on foreign masters, self-praise, and self-perpetuation at the time of crises without realising how disastrous these acts can be.

All the governments, including the present one, think that serious economic problems can easily be solved by seeking the help of IMF, World Bank, ADB and other donors. This is certainly a disastrous and suicidal path. We cannot come out of debt-enslavement, which is the main cause of our subjugation, unless we first become an economically self-reliant nation. For this, the rulers will have to take the first step by living at very modest level, start paying their taxes and then mobilising the masses for struggle to take a great economic leap forward.

The writers, tax lawyers, are Adjunct Professors at the Lahore University of Management Sciences
Verily, His command, when He intends a thing, is only that He says "Be!" - and it is! (Al-Quran)
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