Rent-oriented elite

The present dollar crisis has but indicated how we (the political elite) have been living beyond the state’s means and how much the economy has been mismanaged by the elites of all major polit­ical parties. Pakistan has been in existence for more than seven decades. Other than President Ayub’s era—when rapid industrialisation took place and large dams were built, we do not have much to show for those seven decades.

Yes, we have nurtured a pampered elite class, which is rent-oriented—never lets an opportunity go by to extract profits with a minimum of their investments. The elite class patronises each other with loans and then in an act of mutual benevolence writes off each other’s bil­lions of rupees loans. These written-off loans have been used to set up pharmaceutical companies, auto plants, cement plants, and sugar plants, and then car­tels were created to fleece the general public. The pol­icymakers, for the establishment of afore-mentioned industries, were patronised by the elite and these sec­tors were declared manufacturing sectors, and ac­cordingly, incentives were awarded to them. In return, these sectors were to indiginise the products/ compo­nents and promote local manufacturing and create lo­cal jobs, a condition which never materialised.

The political elite supported by ever pliant bureau­cracy also enjoyed perks and privileges at the state’s ex­pense. And to maintain their hegemony and keep their toadies happy, the political elite also indulged their grovelers with morsels of state money. However, the state was not making enough money to cover this style of profligacy. So what do the elite do? They borrow from international lenders and local banks at bloated interest rates. When one borrows, one has to agree to the lend­er’s terms. Thus, as more and more money was bor­rowed, more and more of the country’s sovereignty was compromised. Thus, after more than seven decades we have billions and billions of dollars of debt and a major portion of our budget goes to debt servicing.

And since 2000, when foreign currency accounts were frozen, the dollarisation of the economy hap­pened, followed by the flight of dollars to Dubai. Strangely, whenever there is a dollar crisis in the country, there is a corresponding rise in the real-es­tate prices in Dubai. Moreover, dollarisation and loan mongering always translate into an increase in power, gas, and petrol prices for the general masses. Further, these increased prices directly impact the prices of daily items of use, thus further compounding the mis­eries of ordinary people. However, the general masses are always soothed with the promises of better days and a prosperous economy, which still have to materi­alise. On the other hand, the elite and their sycophants are insulated from this ever-vicious cycle of inflation since they live off the state resources.

All the above realities were somehow obscured from the general public till the present crisis. People have now come to know that precious foreign exchange re­mitted by the workers in Gulf countries is being wast­ed on indulgences of the elite: importing pet foods, foreign chocolates, clothes, and makeup kits. Further, people came to know that the auto sector is import­ing CKD and SKD kits from abroad at the cost of pre­cious foreign exchange; and the auto sector is not ca­pable enough to export its autos s to any country in the world! Similarly, instead of industrialisation, the rent-oriented elite promoted the real-estate sector and used it for parking black money. And yes, we have be­come good middlemen who have the inside story. So, whenever the government plans to increase the price of any imported commodity/product, the middlemen order them in advance resulting in windfall profits.

Thus, we have a rent-oriented elite supported by a servile bureaucracy, which has the country in a stran­glehold, and resultantly the country is heading to­wards an economic meltdown. Now, the big question is: what mass of three hundred million people will do when the meltdown will happen and the elite and their serfs will flee to their adopted foreign lands?

 

 

Ahsan Munir
The writer is a freelance columnist

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