The Nordic welfare states are unique in many ways. All five of them (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Finland) are prosperous democratic and stable. Perhaps, they are the happiest people on earth. From cradle to grave every citizen is covered. No one sleeps hungry at night nor die without medical attention. It is widely believed that the Islamic State of Medina was the first formal and effective welfare state of the world from where this approach originated.
Then the drift set in, instead of welfare, exploitative states emerged in the Ummah. All brands of exploitation are freely exercised with fake democracy being the worst. If human development index has to be compared the Nordic people lead the pack while the Muslim population is perhaps the lowest. It is indeed shameful that a religion that starts with ‘Iqra’ (read) its followers remain illiterate.
About a decade back, during my stint with the Literacy Commission, I had the chance of meeting a delegation from the Norwegian Embassy. They were interested in establishing a school in a village near Gujrat from where a few hundred locals had migrated to Norway. As most expatriates from Pakistan came home to get married their spouses had to be broken in before they could assimilate into the Nordic system. Their long term vision and planning surprised us all. As ours was a non-formal basic literacy programme we could not help them. Currently some schools have been opened with their system of education. There is a Swedish School in Lahore that claims to impart the Swedish way of life. The engineers from Sweden who came to build ‘Packages Ltd.’ were housed in a purpose built facility in Gulberg called the ‘Swedish Flats’.
With a population of 27.06 million, Scandinavia is a role model for economic opportunity and equality. The two aircrafts being manufactured at Pakistan Aeronautical complex (PAC) Kamra, one is the Swedish Mashak while the other is the Chinese JS-II Thunder. The Karachi Steel Mills and the heavy engineering complexes in Taxila were possible with the assistance of the Socialist countries not our capitalist friends in the West.
The strength of the Nordic economy comes from wage growth, low interest rates and controlled inflation (1—2%). The focus is on building the nation which in return facilitates the efficient running of the state mechanism. It is indeed a win/win combination with no losers. A decent level of existence is ensured for the entire population. For a population of just over 27 million there are eight administrative centers (Copenhagen, Torshavn, Neuck, Helsinki, Mariehamn, Reykjavik, Oslo, Stockholm).
By contrast the population of Punjab alone is 110 million, with only one administrative centre at Lahore directly run by the Chief Minister (CM). The civil secretariat which was once called the ‘Lat Sahib ka Daftar’ during the ‘Raj’ governs through an outdated management system that is at least one century behind. People from 127 Tehsils of the province have to travel miles to get their jobs done. When they arrive at ‘Takht-e-Lahore’ they have to face hostile Baboos with very dismal archives and records for expeditious disposal of their cases. It is a big mess all over with no way out. Had the blessings of corruption not been available, people of the province would have perished by now.
People’s Republic of China (PRC) has a population of 1.379 billion and GDP of $11.2 trillion. PRC is a miracle of the 20th century which pulled out over a billion people out of poverty. It is poised to take over United States of America that has a population of 325.7 million with GDP of $18.57 billion. The Mecca of deregulated capitalism has serious problems. The rich are getting richer with poverty and homelessness on the rise. After centuries of free market approach, the country under businessman President Donald Trump has imposed restrictions on Chinese imports.
Indian Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi has finally decided to hold a Nordic-Indian summit at Osla in the near future. There are only four countries in the world (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri lanka) that have continued with the outdated colonial system of governance. President George Washington after defeating the colonists burnt all the files. A fresh start was made, with a constitution for free people. In 1989, when PRC took control of Hong Kong from the British, the Governor’s House was converted into a museum.
Pakistan was envisioned as a welfare state by the founding fathers. Till the first Martial Law in 1958 nation building continued. In the seventies, Bhutto promised ‘Roti, Kapra aur Makan’ (Food, Clothing and Shelter). Though there were definite democratic gains including the unanimous 1973 constitution, his dream of a welfare state remains unfulfilled. He used the term ‘Musawat-e-Muhammadi’. Kaptaan has also promised to create a welfare state on the lines of Islamic State of Medina. He too can learn from the Nordic Welfare States that continue to serve their over 27 million people in the five countries in Northern Europe. Kaptan is also influenced by the Chinese miracle. Some homework has already been done within PTI but much more needs to be understood. A Nordic-Pakistan Summit can be very beneficial, followed by a visit to the Chinese think tank system where policies are formulated which are then implemented by the political leadership. Institutional roles are clearly defined and separated with defined boundaries. Teamwork is the hallmark of welfare where the focus is on the masses and fulfillment of their needs.
The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation.