The power of the people

Published February 26, 2024

What did not appear so pronounced in politics has surfaced in the recent split electorate mandate: people’s urge for self-governance. An analyst says that the public has reclaimed the grounds that rightly belong to them by defying the chronic status quo and the culture of dread.

In the economic field, as evidenced by the mobility of labour, an increasing number of people are improving their livelihood and their quality of life by themselves. And human capital is turning out to be the most productive asset.

Landless peasants migrate to cities and towns for livelihood, and unskilled, skilled and top professionals find lucrative jobs in foreign countries.

An increasing number of young people, empowered by IT skills, work from home for companies located abroad. To cut costs, corporates everywhere prefer to hire consultants for specific assignments rather than retain talents and expertise. Self-employment is on the increase.

Similarly, job hopping is common among unskilled, skilled urban workers and highly qualified professionals. Apart from job hopping, anecdotal evidence suggests that to improve their earnings, even domestic female servants increasingly opt for piecework in two or three households rather than remain tied to one household job. These earnings help increase the income of poor families in the countryside.

In the post-election public discourse, one can witness growing awareness of what individuals can do to improve their lot, promoting collective national well-being

Workers remittances raise the standard of living and quality of life of millions. And in all areas of the country which receive substantial amounts of remittances, wages tend to go up. Besides, remittances provide several billions of dollars to reduce the country’s trade deficit and contribute significantly to consumption-led economic growth.

On the other hand, the state’s strong footprints in the economy and the rent–seeking culture it creates and nurtures are discouraging entrepreneurs and newcomers from helping build a competitive economy. The outcome is a flight of capital and brain drain. And the formal sector is induced to rely on an expanding informal sector for its sustenance and prosperity.

As corporate borrowings decline, commercial banks are reportedly willing to finance small businesses integrated with corporations as they tend to have reliable cash flows. The financial growth of small and medium enterprises results in development at the grassroots level and prosperity for all, says a banker.

In the post-election public discourse, one can witness growing awareness of what individuals and communities can do to improve their lot, promoting collective national well-being.

The new government’s focus should be to improve governance, without which the challenges facing the nation can’t be met

A citizen with insight says that if we (the young generation) do not want to be left behind, we must learn more in-demand skills. It will not only help us earn a good living as individuals but will also help our country in many ways. People get scammed when they focus on earning more money and not learning the skill.

Here, one may recall what social scientists said long ago: in the distant future, individuals acquiring about half a dozen trade skills would need to work only six hours with more productive, diverse and advanced means of production. Yet they would produce enough to meet human needs and earn a decent living while finding enough time to achieve a happier and fuller life.

In her article ‘Collective Action — For the People, by the People,’ Arhama Siddiqa, a Research Fellow at the Institute of Strategic Studies, observes: With persistence and unity, communities can compel the leaders to pay heed to their voices (as recently demonstrated by the Capital Development Authority’s approval to build 146km long two-way cycling track across Islamabad) or collective action (such as building Sialkot airport).

The secret ingredient for community engagement, she says, lies in awareness regarding issues to bring social change.

Public pressure has helped bring about a consensus among major parties on the need to empower local governments to catalyse economic and social progress.

Looking at historical records, analysts say inorganic creations (political parties) have short shelf-lives and limited appeal and, despite widespread manipulation of the system, are rejected by voters. Only those political forces thrive that either turn away from their creators or look only to the people for legitimacy. They also note that the powerful have had a lot of trouble lately keeping the people under their thumb.

In the ongoing dialogue, both PML-N and PPP are reported to have recognised that the political party/parties forming the government cannot afford any further lapses in governance. The new government’s focus should be to improve governance, without which the challenges facing the nation can’t be met.

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, February 26th, 2024

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