IN the face of financial crunch at home and political turmoil in the regional neighbourhood leading to border issues, the interest in the 18th amendment is understandable. Business — or life — as usual has become unsustainable and we will have to come up with some creative solution to our fiscal situation.
An increase in taxes as well as responsible spending patterns would seem like obvious choices. Inevitably at some point defence spending will also come up for discussion. With the Kashmir issue unlikely to be resolved militarily, there will be voices questioning defence spending. Others will suggest continuing tension on the borders regardless of anything else.
Ideally, it would be great to increase the GDP or taxes, but they are not looking likely. If sensibly managed, the defence spending does not have to be reduced. One way adopted by several countries is to have a smaller standing army and a large population of trained reserves who may be called upon in times of war.
But country-specific issues have to be taken care of as well.
For instance, our low education and skills level as well as questionable work ethics are issues in which the armed forces can set things right in the civilian domain as trainers. The US army trains approximately 190 occupational specialties — electricians, plumbers, cooks, drivers, retail workers, etc.
In addition, the full length of the contract can be divided into active as well as reserve service. Imagine a reliable, well-trained pool of skilled labour available in all parts of the country, particularly the far-flung areas; a labour force prepared for both war and peace situations.
Better training, shorter contracts and input into a larger reserve force will allow better utilisation of resources.
Published in Dawn, October 27th, 2020