The fate of reforms and projects can often be predicted by how they are described in the newspaper ads. Obscure jargon such as “the need for additional analysis and policy options in light of global experiences” or “ accountability and capacity of public sector as our reform oriented strategic goals” could only suggest either mental muddiness or planned deception. The technique has however stood the test of time and proved highly successful in seeking foreign funding and cooperation for wishy-washy projects.
Three score and eight years down the road, Pakistan is still searching for foreign funding and foreign consultants to identify its own ailments and their solutions. A US$11.6 million program was signed with the UNDP in March 2015 to support the key governance reforms at federal and provincial levels. Show-cased around glossy reports, mineral water bottles and 5 star seminars, this donor-driven gimmickry will certainly go down the same drain as all its earlier predecessors.
Three key factors will determine the progress and prosperity of Pakistan in the days to come. Ability to control its burgeoning population, ability to control the 20 million guns in the hands of militant citizens and ability to adopt renewable sources of energy to replace its fossil fuel addiction. One would have liked to see these three missing items at the top of the list of our proposed ‘foreign supported’ reforms. Regrettably they are conspicuous by their absence.
Applying brakes to its 2.05% population growth rate ought to be the foremost task on the priority list of Pakistan. This is absolutely vital to reduce the burden imposed on infrastructure (e.g., schools, hospitals, housing, roads), resources (e.g., food, water, electricity, trees) and jobs. Deweaponisation, surrender of all weapons and a completely gun-free citizenry should be included in the objectives of Zarb-e-Azb, if we are to become a sane and peaceful nation. There is also little evidence or seriousness for a major push towards renewable sources of energy like wind, solar and hydro power. Not catering to these three factors will neutralize any other reforms that may be on the cards.
Should our service delivery reforms not begin from simple and doable tasks that could bring immediate relief to a common man. Should our reforms not begin by re-engineering our police force, liberating it from the clutches of the politicians and converting it into an autonomous and professional institution.
Should we not do away with all affidavits and ghost attestations that citizens need to frequently submit to the government. Can we not eliminate or drastically reduce the need for citizens to visit government offices. Citizens should be able to communicate with government on phone, fax, letter or email. The government should respond and deliver all documents by post instead of asking people to come for their collection.
What stops us from introducing telephonic/electronic money transfer for payment of all government dues. Individuals should not be required to visit offices or banks for receiving or depositing any government tax or fee. In Karachi alone, one can do away with 10 million annual visits to E&T department for payment of motor vehicle tax (averaging 3 visits per car owner). Millions of citizens queue up every month in National Saving Branches to receive, what could have directly gone into their bank accounts.
Why can the government not force its colonial bureaucracy to eliminate all support staff such as ‘qasids’, ‘naib qasids’, clerks, typists, peons and drivers. Like elsewhere in the world, every officer regardless of his rank should be his own typist, ‘qasid’, driver and ‘office boy’.
Why can we not get rid of the concept of official vehicles. The federal and provincial government officials in Pakistan (mis)use over 150,000 official cars while the UK government uses only 85 – of which 13 are allocated to ministers and the rest reside in a common car pool.
Only if the bureaucrats were to be intelligently reading daily newspapers (http://www.dawn.com/news/1196381 , http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-282208-Life-as-a-citizen , http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-325255-How-not-to-collect-taxes ), they would have picked up a hint or two about the stuff called ‘reforms’. These and many other alleviation measures can be implemented in a very short period of time. They require neither foreign funding nor foreign consultants. After all there are not many examples of countries having made progress with rented brains.