Profile in Politics On Thursday last, the Pakistan National Forum organised a Post-Budget Seminar, which was presided over by former Governor Shahid Hamid. Former Finance Minister Dr Hafeez A. Pasha, who has served at the United Nations in various capacities, and is currently chairing the panel of economists that has assisted in the formulation of the present budget, was the chief guest. The speakers expressed their deep concern with a sense of anguish over the state of the economy, as per various indicators including the soaring prices of essential commodities of daily use, resulting in an increasing number of suicides and also bringing almost 40 percent of the population of Pakistan to live below the poverty line. The distinguished speakers comprised Salman Shah, Syed Fakhar Imam, Tariq Saeed Sehgal, Prof. Dr Mujahid Kamran, Iftikhar Ali Malik, Rana Ijaz Ahmed, Rana Ikram Rabbani, General Khawaja Rahat Latif, General Saeedud Din Qazi and many other eminent names representing the civil society of Pakistan. Almost all the participants maintained that it was hard to believe that the nation was run on Islamic principles where the head of state was supposed to be responsible even if a dog were to die of hunger, let alone the people of the country. It is unfortunate that our nation can hardly be called a republic if you take even a cursory look at the condition of the federating units. The government appears to be least concerned about the prevailing sorry plight of Pakistan. The internal and external challenges facing Pakistan grows alarmingly with the passage of time, even posing in grave threat of survival to the country. But the worst threat is the economy, stupid Hafeez Pasha deserves to be congratulated on the courage he showed by putting his finger on the pulse of the ailing economy. He revealed that the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and other international financial institutions were insisting on a 35 percent increase in tariff on electricity in the next financial budget. Indeed, the impact of an overall increase in inflation should not be difficult to guess. One does not have to be an economist to foresee that the hike in power tariff would spur inflation to double digits, which is bound to cause an unbearable increase in the present budget deficit in the months ahead. The question is, what is the remedy to save the economy from collapsing? The solution is indeed simple - the government should resist the pressure for the 35 percent increase in power tariff. If this is not done then only a miracle could avert public explosion of discontent. And miracles do not happen to salvage those people who do not help themselves. All the speakers, without exception, hoped that the government will rise to the occasion, as it has no other option but to accept the harsh reality that the current budget deficit is six percent. That the government has pledged to reverse it to four percent, which is a bitter pill for it to swallow. However hard may the government hope, the odds against this hope are too heavy. Nevertheless, the speakers stressed that a 50 percent increase in the salaries would cost additional rupees two hundred billion to the provinces. Moreover, an increase in the salary structure would bring more inflation in terms of an increase in the purchasing power of the urban middle class. The government in that eventuality would be obliged to print more currency notes. In this context, who does not know that failing economies cannot be saved by printing currency notes. Currency notes cannot turn a peasant's cottage into a king's palace. In the civilised world, printing currency notes without real economic strength and logic is a moral offence equated with cheating the people. Let us stop this practice in the best interest of the country. The writer is the President of the Pakistan National Forum.