Just like Rome was not built in a day, Pakistan was not de-structured in a day.
The seeds for the prevailing mess were laid with the Economic Reforms Act of 1992. Thereafter PMLN and Zardari governments have worsened the rot. The government of President Musharraf led by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz squandered a post 9/11 opportunity when Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves blew into a bubble of consumerism. All advisors, ministers and bureaucrats sitting on revolving chairs and playing revolving doors need to be held accountable.
It is futile cursing the old governments. Even today, the policies and henchmen are the same. Pseudo Intellectualism is based on clichés like devaluation to boost exports that never happened since 60s; energy price hikes that keep piling; selling household silver as a onetime measure of revenue; subsidies to agro industry that ensures agriculture does not grow; kick starting infrastructure development through a speculative market; and inviting investors in stock markets, an exclusive club of big time inside traders and speculators.
Summarise to say that the more one tries to change, the more it remains the same. Pakistan is hostage to a select few who keep brewing the same broth, depart, dust clothes and are back.
Pakistan’s economic mangers (henchmen) have to realise that sustainable growth depends on harnessing the lowest tiers of society through participatory instrumentalism. If their theories and policies were correct, Pakistan’s economy should have grown by thousands time over. In per capita terms, it has shrunk many times over. The old recipes have failed persistently. They will fail again.
Endogenous growth that affects the life of at least 90% Pakistanis is not a rocket science. This is not a cost intensive exercise and depends more on harnessing capabilities, developing motivations and providing the right tools. It is built on the most important element what Hans Joachim Morgenthau calls, The fleeting opportunities of national character and morale.
Leadership is an idiosyncratic notion. Besides leading, it provides pathways to the led for their own benefit. When grassroots begin to be productive, the whole economic edifice starts moving. That’s what happened in Karachi, Hyderabad, Jamshoro, Sukker, Harnai, Peshawar, Mardan, Nowshera, Faisalabad, Lahore, Wazirabad, Gujranwala and Sialkot in the 60s. Now all that is left are twisted corrugated sheets and spider webs. Do people even remember that these were once Pakistan’s industrial mega cities?
From 2004-7, Pakistan witnessed a huge boon in infrastructure development, real estate and stock exchanges. Yet the collapse in 2008 onwards was swift and continues. So this experiment cannot be replicated to ensure productivity.
Devaluation from Rs. 5 to a dollar has been 35 fold or 2,800%. After the decade of 60s, have the exports ever eclipsed the imports? No, never!
Pakistan’s small scale manufacturing sector once the pride of the country is now in the red. Has the government ever devised a plan to motivate and incentivise these artisans and technicians to get back to the process of import substitution? How many technical training institutes, skill development centres and agriculture training centres have been added in the past three decades? How many industrialists have made efforts to patronise and invest in research and development of small scale manufacturers?
Even if economic statistics (due to absence of government commitment) show its dwindling importance, agriculture remains the major block of Pakistan’s economy. It feeds upstream industries like textiles, sugar and edible oils. Even multinationals and corporates like fertilizers and agrochemicals hold farmers hostage. According to modern agriculture technologies, 70-80% of fertilizer and agro chemicals are wasted polluting environment. They actually reduce production by 60-70%. Yet these corporations regularly get subsidies and waivers with zero benefits for farmers because they are always connected at the right places.
The sugar industry affects agriculture in many ways. First, it holds sugar cane farmers by a noose. They under-weigh their produce, pay less and defer payments. Secondly, through the power plants, they get subsidies on fuel they seldom use. Their major profit is not sugar but the by-products they make. Sugar is a political industry producing surpluses. Thirdly, being a water intensive crop, it has caused colossal environmental damage detriment to other agriculture crops. Analytically, it is a greedy man’s industry that has contributed to retardation of quality and quality of agriculture.
The livestock, poultry and dairy industry relies heavily on imported soy meal. This is an imported product used for secondary extraction and feed. It is in interests of this industry to retard the indigenous Canola in Pakistan. Canola rivals olive oil in quality and health benefits. It is no wonder that Pakistan’s biggest canola research project at Kabirwala was closed in 1997 through the Oil Seeds Corporation and Ministry of Industries and kept closed till now. Similarly two cooperative milk processing plants were also closed. Kabirwala was sold off to a multinational while the Halla Project at Lahore was illegally grabbed by the Punjab Government in 2012. The manpower was used to install two private milk plants at Chiniot and Rahim Yar Khan. The same fate fell on Pakistan’s indigenous research in producing high quality productive cotton seeds. The Monsanto/Bayer lobby ensured the successful project was shelved forever. These case studies provide insights on how Pakistan’s growing agro industry was sabotaged for selfish interests of a coterie that still calls shots.
The world is fast shifting to natural agriculture on the model of tropical forests. Without any human interventions, these forests with wide diversity have grown and proliferated for millions of years. These have tenaciously maintained the biodiversity despite man-made disasters.
The pioneers of this paradoxical or natural agriculture are Pakistani farmers celebrated world over. Brazil has become the world’s largest producer of organic sugar with intervention of Pakistan. Bihar in India, Phillipines, USA and Australia are all benefiting from the Pakistani experience. The growth in wheat, corn, sugar cane, cotton and vegetables increases by at least 300%. Water wastage is reduced by 90%. The yields are totally organic with no fertilizers or agro chemicals.
Successive governments in Pakistan look the other way to these leapfrogging agricultural developments. These agriculturists are shunned and treated as pariah. There are many reasons for this sorry state of affairs.
First, these farmers threaten to run fertilizer and agro chemical companies out of business. Secondly, they promise to pull small farmers out of hold of manipulative market mafias, make them richer and promise them tangible human resource development. Thirdly, they have the capability to convert Pakistan into the biggest organic food producer of the world. This is why the system will always keep them out.
It is unlikely that the government will ever support them. The responsibility of kick starting Pakistan’s small industries and agriculture will also fall on shoulders of these innovators and low tier businessmen. As Pakistan’s economy plummeted, these handfuls of agriculturists and innovators led by Late Dr. Zafar Altaf grew with sheer dedication against opposition and intimidation. It is the same team that made an unrivalled cooperative of Idara e Kissan, brought strawberries, cherries, leechies, olives and high quality seeds to Pakistan.
Right now, small scale manufacturing and agriculture in Pakistan are not even on ventilators. They are long dead. No government in the past three decades realised the damage it caused. The team of evergreen advisors and experts are too busy at shameless self-promotion and agents for financial institutions. If the state of affairs remains the same, Pakistan will remain mired in the economic trap.
The next article will reveal how an effective edifice set up by Dr. Zafar Altaf was systematically dismantled. The henchmen who did it are still in business.