I recently got into an argument with a childhood friend (feudal who presently sits in the Assembly), as he accused me of still not having recovered from the 'cynicism virus, which I allegedly contracted during school days and that how people like myself are short-sighted because we do not appreciate that he and his colleagues represent the leadership of and by the people, and democracy is in effect a long haul This got me thinking and made me concerned that do his accusations carry substance, can feudal brains think rationally, are critics (like myself) being injudicious in our assessment about a seeming 'disconnect between the governments actions and the peoples priorities, and most importantly, is it the people who are impatient for quick solutions or the government who on its own opts for short-term survival techniques, rather than assuming the visionary mantle? The more I struggled to find satisfying answers to the above questions, the more I was convinced that it was time to again, a) consult tomorrows Pakistanis (fresh graduates hailing from any of the industrious parts of Pakistan) on where lies their most essential requirement; and b) have a haircut. For the first, I decided last week to take a detour on my way to work and talk to this years graduating students at the Shahdara Textile Institute (rated amongst the top textile polytechnics of Pakistan) on what is the one most important thing that they want from their government (it is pertinent to mention here that the course they undertook may be specialising in textile engineering, but they go on to serve in diversified fields of industry across Pakistan)? Their answer, not surprisingly, was identical: A Job. Ten years ago, I had visited the same place to attend a graduation ceremony and the Principal had boasted that one hundred percent of his graduating class had jobs even before they left the campus, whereas, today on a sad note these children confessed that hardly 20 percent of them could claim that they were successful in securing a reasonable job My barber, who simultaneously manages a shop in old Lahore while personally attending to a bunch of elite members in a posh local club (a living example on how to successfully manage cultural diversity) can always be relied upon to have a finger on the pulse of the common man. I decided to rely on his wisdom to find out what precisely are the most pressing current issues confronting the people on the street? His answers, again not surprisingly, did not come out very different: Inflation and lack of jobs. In addition, he also went on to add a punch line, which at least I never thought I would be hearing in my lifetime, that people in fact want Musharraf to return because the kitchen essentials were half of what they cost today. So much for the myth about the love of the man on the street for democracy And this is the very 'disconnect, which was so glaringly visible in the federal budget announced by the government a couple of weeks back. People want relief and jobs, while the government wants money. Gauging from the budgetary announcements, it appears that the government does not care whether or not their revenue-generation drive and subsequent revenue allocations provide any breathing space for the citizens or give them any hope for the future as long as they can keep their circus going. Somehow the whole burden of the state seems to have shifted on to the citizens in a scenario where ironically the state is the one demanding, instead of endeavouring to provide. In any given economy, when real wages go down the size of the black or undocumented economy goes up, and likewise when market profitability goes down the size of the black economy goes up. Today even by conservative estimates, the size of the undocumented economy of Spain and Italy (both included in the list of developed countries and members of the EU) is about 25 percent of their respective GDP. So when we in an underdeveloped country, with a high illiteracy rate and a culture where the government itself abets non-documentation in sectors of the economy which arguably are most prosperous, why are we so concerned when our tax to GDP ratio falls to the single digit level? Back in 1980-82, we enjoyed a tax to GDP ratio as high as 14 percent, which instead of going up or being sustained went down. We do not need to reinvent the wheel or desire the FBR Chairman to become Pakistans 'Zane Grey, but simply to go back to what we were doing right back in the early 80s. Basically, back then we were ensuring, a) the small and medium sized enterprises in Pakistan remained competitive and profitable, which in turn created a lot of jobs; and b) the real wage rate (in relation to the Pak rupees buying power) didnt lag behind the prevalent inflation rate. The primary difference between the government and a pure corporate entity is that the states main focus is the welfare of its people and not mere financial returns, and it is in this context that we need to be careful about how we approach our privatisation campaign vis--vis the public sector enterprises. When determining their future care needs to be taken about some of the very important intangible market and social functions they perform, like promoting national unity and gelling nationhood by being symbols of nationalism and national pride, helping maintain market price equilibrium, job creation and equitable distribution of wealth and resources. While restructuring, turning them around and public offering of part stock to ensure a strong cum vibrant boardroom environment are certainly good options, but simple outright sale to a select few can certainly not be in the larger national interest. Finally, the government needs to realise the old principle of Economics: Market space cannot be kept empty. What it implies is that if the government does not perform, the space left empty by it will be taken up by the alternative: Black Economy/Undocumented Economy. According to the famous studies carried out by Professor Ignacio Maulen, Economics Professor at King Juan Carlos University, Madrid, Spain, and Professor Pietro Reichlin, Economics Professor at Luiss University, Rome, Italy, economic crisis make black economies acceptable amongst people and if governments try and tax their way out of economic depressions, then the black economies become even more acceptable and gain space. They go on to argue that in fact when governance is poor these underground or black economies have a useful role to play, as this sometimes becomes the only part of the economy that keeps the economy alive. People find jobs where they immediately earn something in cash to feed their families. What it boils down to is that unless our economic governance starts primarily focusing on the Pakistani people by in turn focusing on growth and job creation the present economic puzzle will not begin to fall in place. It might sound very fashionable to refer to each other as 'duffers, but such a self-proclaimed genius can only be taken seriously if it is backed by tangible performance n The writer is an entrepreneur and an economic analyst. Email: kamalmannoo@hotmail.com.