A TRANSPARENT and accountable system of governance requires, among other things: freedom of expression and association for everyone without discrimination, and a clean and efficient judiciary that guarantees the rule of law without prejudice. It’s no good to have laws on the books that make no sense or laws that are not properly enforced.
In my opinion, the government should decentralise the federation; shift power and resources from the centre to provinces; create new provinces to take into account the ethnic and regional diversities and aspirations; and make the local government a constitutional third-tier of the federation — do not leave it to the whims of the provincial governments.
The government should shift responsibility on the provincial and local governments and give them adequate financial resources and fiscal powers. All levels of governments should be accountable in spending tax revenue. Financial excess should be prevented by setting overall limits.
The PTI government should expand the tax base, close the loopholes and remove dodgy exemptions; simplify the tax system; make the assessment and collection of taxes transparent and cost-effective, and ensure equality vis-a-vis tax liability.
The government should reduce public spending on the civil and military establishments and state-owned corporations as well as entities that add little to (or perhaps subtract from) the public good. Spend more on those goods and services that improve the people’s well-being like basic healthcare and education, with particular focus on women and children.
Make these services qualitatively better and affordable for low-income families in both rural and urban areas. Give proper incentives to the service providers (infrastructure, training and emoluments) and make merit as the only criterion for recruitment and career advancement. A conditional cash-transfer scheme, well-designed and well-administered, can make a big difference to poor households and yield substantial dividend to society.
Rationalise the regulatory functions of all levels of government to foster competition among producers and distributors of goods and services. The more the state intervenes the more opportunities it creates for rent-seeking. It is good to be modest in promises but bold, even audacious, in fulfilling them.
Mahmood Hasan Khan
Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2018