One of my relatives shifted to Dubai many years ago, to be with her son and grandchildren. I happened to come across her after some time and enquired how she liked her new environment. “I am surrounded,” she responded, “by a young nation that has used its single source of revenue to become a global symbol of prosperity, while Pakistan with its lack of ‘black gold’ assets adequately compensated by a wide range of alternatives, has sunk to the lowest depths of economic deprivation, poor governance and social decay.” This stark contrast, she continued, had generated so much frustration that she was now reluctant to go out and preferred to remain housebound.

While I do not subscribe to the reaction shown by my kin, I can understand the emotion that has driven her to this state of mind. When one of my colleagues returned from a business trip to Bangladesh, he appeared to be greatly disturbed by the fact that in the short span of only 42 years, this country had outstripped Pakistan in value-added textile exports. This was made possible because of a focused long-term approach and continuation of policy by successive governments.

Regretfully, the incoming governments in Pakistan set about nurturing a corrupt, self-centred and near-sighted system that first condemned and then set aside policies made by their predecessors.

Our Finance Ministry and its siblings dealing with industries, commerce and trade are something like the “wise men of Gotham”. As an ordinary taxpaying citizen of Pakistan, I fully understand that an empty treasury needs to be replenished and internal revenue generation through taxation is one way of accomplishing this. The flipside of this is that such measures pass on the burden to the public, a large segment of which is already labouring under an uneven tax regime.

I have used the word uneven, because successive governments (including the newly-elected one) have repeatedly failed to muster feudal landowners into the tax net through an Agriculture Income Tax. The reason for this is more than obvious, as many of those with large land holdings sit in Parliament and would undermine any attempt to push a law that conflicts with their source of wealth.

I have serious doubts if the present government will push the case for dams, including the critical Kalabagh Project. I have spoken to many opinion makers from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh, who in the privacy of drawing rooms agree that construction of the last mentioned dam is essential for our economic revival, but every one of these individuals say that they cannot express this view in public for reasons of their political survival. Such two-faced ‘patriotism’ where political survival supersedes an imperative national need is, to say the least, beyond my understanding.

While on the subject of power, there is some good news. The government has decided to set up ‘Energy Parks’ to augment electricity shortfall. One of these parks will be set up in Cholistan, where solar energy will be used to generate power, while the second project has been planned for Balochistan. Experts have long advocated that we use alternate resources to bring cheap electricity to consumers and a department dealing with the subject was also set up without much progress in the desired direction.

I remember that a friend of mine, who is a prosperous British citizen, made several trips to Islamabad in a bid to set up solar cum wind projects to feed the national grid. He scrapped his plans, when he was confronted with numerous bureaucratic impediments and instead decided to manufacture solar generation systems commercially.

I am tempted to express some satisfaction on the Prime Minister’s statement about foreign investors, but would humbly submit that this notion will follow its predecessors if handled by government bureaucrats and their staff. What may, perhaps, be needed is a dynamic set up with a global corporate outlook that resonates with would be investors and lends credibility to Mr Nawaz Sharif’s commitment.

  The writer is a freelance columnist.