Azam Khalil If you would know the value of money, go and try to borrow some. Franklin Hard economic realities have finally forced the government at both the federal and provincial levels to tighten its belt. Although this was long overdue, yet political expediency, coalition compulsions, and years of financial mismanagement did not allow the government to enforce the financial discipline that is essential for Pakistan to save its economy from ruin. Long years of dictatorial rule coupled with an earthquake that cut deep into the resources of the country, besides the recent unprecedented floods, have severely hurt Pakistans economic prospects. As if this was not enough, certain parties tried to use the countrys poor economic condition as an instrument of political advancement. They did not allow the government to introduce its revised GST, which is considered necessary by leading economic analysts to enable Pakistan to stand on its own feet. Unfortunately, Pakistan is a country where many people do not want to pay their taxes, be it income tax, property tax or vehicle tax, and would even like to skip duties that are imposed by the government on hotels. Recently, it was reported that various leading corporate houses managed to gain the support of some political elements across the divide to ensure that the government is unable to impose the revised GST or to reform the tax system. According to an estimate, if the tax collection system is streamlined and the government succeeds in collecting the taxes from all the legitimate taxpayers, the present revenue receipts could increase by more than 100 percent relieving substantial pressure on our economy. Another factor that will help to revive Pakistans economy is by ensuring the efficient running of state-owned enterprises. That incurs a loss of nearly Rs 300 billion per year depriving the government to initiate projects, which could improve the quality of life of the poor. Likewise, a vast amount of money that should go into the state or government coffers is lost due to rampant corruption, and sometimes because of faulty monetary policies. To overcome these and other challenges, the government has finally relented and has cut its developmental budget by Rs 100 billion. Another cut of Rs 50 to Rs 60 billion is on the cards because there is no other revenue from where the government could have saved money to balance the present curse of deficit financing. Debt repayments and the money that has to be spent for the security of the country, besides the salaries and pension bills of government employees, leave very little that can be spent on development and peoples welfare. The only option that the government had was to impose new taxes and at the same time streamline the existing tax system. However, the imposition of new taxation seems to be impossible in the present political atmosphere. Thus, a cosmetic initiative has been taken by the government, who has decided to 'rightsize, reshuffle Pakistans Cabinet. More so, it had already abolished nearly 290 new projects after the floods, besides maintaining a high interest rate that will help to reduce inflation. Another factor that cannot be ignored is the total lack of foreign investment, which is used to hover around 25 to 30 percent of Pakistans GDP. Undoubtedly, this has happened due to the poor law and order situation in the country. Also, Pakistans support for USAs war on terror is an important element responsible for the present state of its economy. However, there are certain areas that are beyond the control of the government including the price structure of fuel, which in turn affects the cost of commodities of daily use. Anyway, the government has decided to provide some relief to the common people by tightening its own belt. But it will have to take some bold decisions before a noticeable impact is felt by a majority of the people. Following in the footsteps of the federal government, the Punjab government has also decided to cut 550 jobs, which will result in saving nearly Rs 6 billion per year. Likewise, the other three provinces have also decided to cut their non-developmental expenditures by 10 percent, but this will only be a cosmetic decision because the saving will not have any significant effect on the daily lives of the people living in those provinces. Therefore, the question that needs to be addressed immediately is: How to generate more money, enforce financial discipline and introduce an efficient economic management? Until and unless viable answers are not found to these critical questions, Pakistans economic progress will remain as elusive as a butterfly. In order to beat the odds, it is absolutely essential that the economic managers of the country devise a plan that not only creates an efficient tax system, but also introduces a method that would be fair to the people that are liable to taxation under the law. It will be equally important to devise a method to plug the loopholes, award heavy penalties and even jail to those who are caught cheating or evading their taxes on one pretext or the other. The same should apply to corrupt government operatives, who are responsible for the pilferage of government revenues. In addition, the government should amend the law that will increase existing penalties for those who try to circumvent the present tax system. Nevertheless, to achieve these objectives will really be a tall order, but then until the country starts its journey in the right direction it will never reach its destination. And the destination for our political leadership must be not only the creation of a robust economy, but also the progress and prosperity of the millions whose dreams have largely remained unfulfilled in their homeland till today. Thus, we need political stability and consistent economic policies to achieve these goals, which can only be acquired if democracy takes firm root in the country. One hopes that our political leadership will realise its responsibility and will try to resolve the economic issues through appropriate economic measures. That it will not politicise economic issues because if Pakistan fails to overcome its present economic woes it will never be able to stand on its own feet. Hence, pragmatism demands that the political leadership and the opposition rise above party politics and sit down together in an effort to resolve the challenges that are faced by Pakistans economy. The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: