The first major document bearing the stamp of our new government was revealed on June 12 in the form of the annual budget. The incoming team appeared to have confined itself mainly to dot the i’s and cross the t’s of the statement of income and expenditure compiled by the budget division in the Q block during the last 12 months. It lacked the sparkle of any long-term vision or innovation with the aim of making the country an Asian tiger that the Prime Minister has promised to the nation. In a repeat performance of each year, the speeches by the opposition in the budget debates both in the centre and provinces are directed more towards political point-scoring than any meaningful budgetary input. The usual demonstrations by aggrieved parties have surfaced and the appeals to relevant ministers by industrial and trading organisations have started to appear in leading newspapers for reduction or abolition of taxes. Everyone in our country has an opinion, countless wishes but very little sense of responsibility. We all want to have the cake and eat it too - to have it all without having to earn it.Our current Assemblies continue to be dominated by the minority urban and rural affluent classes, each of which has huge business and agricultural interests. Their priorities are to protect and enhance their wealth (shrouded in secrecy), and to ensure they are not made to part even with a small percentage of their (undeclared) incomes in the head of taxes. The interests of the middle class and the poor are barely represented in the Assemblies, and the only forum available to them, to attract attention of the high and mighty to their basic needs, is street agitation. These groups are vulnerable to exploitation by political groups of vested interests. The government functionaries are all too familiar with this drill. Yet, they make no effort to reach a consensus and form a public opinion by taking all affected sectors in confidence, prior to presenting their proposals. The exercise is left to be dealt with by the unprepared politicians, after the budget is announced. The incumbents easily buckle and surrender to public demands or pressures of vested interests. Necessary revenue sources integral to the economy are thus withdrawn with a knee-jerk reaction. Such shortfalls are compensated either by supplementary grants or by adjustments manoeuvred by cutting down other expenditure allocations. Once the mutilation begins, the budgetary provisions lose their balance and the shape in which they have been approved by the house. Financial revolution cannot be brought about by the conventional wisdom of the previous years that has kept us near the bottom of all the states in the region. Our industry has been focused primarily on the production of raw material to feed the industries of the developed world. Our economy has become consumer oriented. The provisions of the current budgets do not lead us to any different path. Our textile industry, which is over 60 percent of our total exports, is heavily subsidised and not feasible for multiple growths in its present shortcut basic form. During the last three decades, we have been unable to develop our technical expertise and train our human resource towards value added products and marketing skills to explore and capture new export markets or to get a bigger share in the existing ones. The example of Bangladesh is a case in point. Though it does not produce cotton, it achieved a phenomenal growth in textiles by converting itself into an immense floating factory, importing raw materials from the Far East and exporting manufactured products to the whole world. To convert our precious cotton crop into coarse yarn or sheets of grey fabric for export at low prices to conventional markets is throwing away our agricultural resource and our potential to maximise the returns. We can do infinitely better if, in addition to short-term profit making, we allocate a little more time, resource and budget on serious research and development of innovative textile products. Presently, only the large-scale units engaged in value added textiles manufacturing are operating at near full capacity. Their economic viability is the economy of scale, good management and financial health. Most of the medium and small industrial units engaged in similar value added items (that is the backbone of the economy and workers employment) have either closed down or have taken their productions overseas due to high costs of power generation and lack of capital. The government must equally share the responsibility along with the private sector for this failure. The state has failed to create a favourable environment. Our entrepreneurs have adopted short-term hit and run policies depending heavily on state subsidies, have not invested in long-term strategies and their faith in the country has weakened. The agriculture, dairy and cattle farming have also suffered from lack of sufficient investment, research and hard work. Our produce per acre is the lowest in the region. The farming methods are primitive, no new varieties are introduced and the lack of attention by absentee landowners has caused this sector to become stagnant at a certain level. Our engineering sector that is generally the nucleus of the industrial progress of any country has been totally ignored by the government. Apart from the very basic engineering workshops run by ill trained technicians, no reliable facilities to fabricate light machinery or even repair the imported machinery and their electronic panels are installed in the private sector. The executives from rich countries who visit us and communicate with their counterparts in our country show there is no significant intellectual difference between them and our people. Race or skin colour is also not important. Our workforce labelled lazy and inefficient has proved to be the productive power in the Middle East and European countries. Our professionals have also excelled in the US. The missing link here is the system and opportunity. We need to observe and analyse developments of similar nations, and teach our people to deal with changes patiently and calmly, while securing their positions and striving for achievements. To accomplish this, we must cultivate and transmit an image of security, order and labour. The difference between us and the developed countries is the attitude of the people, framed along the years by education and culture. We find that the great majority of people in developed countries follow the following principles in their lives - ethics, as a basic principle, integrity, responsibility, respect to the laws and rules, respect to the right of other citizens, work loving, strive for saving and investment, will of super action and punctuality. In our country, only a minority follows these basic principles in its daily life. We are not poor and backward because we lack natural resources or because nature was cruel to us. We are poor because we lack attitude. We lack the will to comply with and teach these functional principles of rich and developed societies. We must change and act.

nThe writer is an engineer and an entrepreneur.