POLITICAL parties vie with each other for a chance to run the country. This is what multi-party democracies are about. Parties frame their manifestos according to a) what in their view constitutes the main challenges facing the country, b) how the incumbents have failed to grapple with the same, and c) how things will be handled differently to achieve the outcomes promised by the challenger.
In some ways, the democratic electoral challenge is akin to a corporate takeover. Maybe even a hostile takeover, depending upon the type of challenge thrown to the incumbent in months and years leading up to the elections. However, when a company’s management is at stake, it goes without saying that the bidder is not only vying for the company’s assets and productive units, it is also committing to take on its liabilities and honour the commitments made to other stakeholders.
Such takeovers, whether in the corporate world or in the rough and tumble of electoral politics, are aimed at turning around the less-than-efficiently-run entity into a well governed, sustainable and ultimately profitable concern for all stakeholders. It would be considered ridiculous if the incoming management continues to harp on about how badly the outgoing team managed the company affairs. In other words, it was exactly this failure to put effective systems in place and safeguard the interests of shareholders that caused the rout of the incumbents and presented an opportunity to the new management team to prove its mettle. Hence, they better get on with it, instead of going on and on about the lack of vision, skill and ethics of the ousted lot.
In some ways, the electoral process is akin to a corporate takeover.
Every time the PTI government laments the mess it has inherited from the PML-N and how the situation is not of its making, they are actually proving their detractors right that they had not done their homework. Did the PTI actually think that it would only take over the productive units while the loss-making arms of the country and the troublesome workforce would be someone else’s headache? It seems so, by the manner in which the government continues to blow hot and cold about the bureaucracy, which according to it ‘drags its feet’ when not outrightly throwing spanners in its works.
Did the PTI not know that state-owned enterprises like PIA, Pakistan Steel Mills, Pakistan Railways and the energy sector, just to name a few, need to be turned around? That each one of them employs thousands of people who will have to be consulted and brought on board to see the proposed reforms as a win-win proposition for everyone. Did the PTI not realise that vowing not to privatise the loss-making SOEs will continue to burden the exchequer? The proposal to turn them into profit-making concerns by pumping billions of rupees worth of subsidies does not sit well even with a bigger national priority, ie raising revenue collection.
To broaden the tax base instead of continuing to squeeze those already in the tax net requires a systematic campaign to convince potential taxpayers that their tax rupee will be spent to improve the health and education services and the infrastructure required to boost manufacturing and agriculture productivity. Keeping sinking SOEs afloat with the taxpayers’ money is actually a put-off not an incentive for would-be taxpayers. Can a team of cabin crew and air traffic controllers turn an air force into a profitable commercial airline? If not, then how can a bevy of air vice marshals turn the PIA around?
If across-the-board subsidies for the energy sector, fertiliser industry, etc by the outgoing team did not have a salutary effect, why would its continuation by the current lot produce a different result? At the current rate, the poorly-governed citizens will be within their right to understand that the PTI does not only borrow from the sporting lexicon but considers the entire exercise of running the country a pastime, a sport of sorts.
When the PTI walas thundered from their containers that the other two national political parties had each taken multiple baris (turns) and it was their turn now, ‘we-the-people’ should have known they were only seeking their turn to be the new ruling elite. Beware! After the PTI government’s term is over, or if it voluntarily declares the innings — forcing the jailed lot to contest snap elections – they will not tire of reminding us all they played only half a bari whereas the other lot were all hundred-match veterans. Well, as the saying goes, if they dupe us twice, shame on us.
One must acknowledge the masterstroke by Prime Minister Imran Khan, though — the clear distance he has put between himself and the matters of economy, foreign policy and defence. Whatever goes wrong, the respective taskmasters will biodegrade on the trash heap of history, while he himself will be the pristine captain let down by the squabbling boys.
The writer is a poet and analyst.
Published in Dawn, January 9th, 2019