The Express Tribune Editorial 28 May 2021

State of healthcare


In the country, issues relating to healthcare, including quality of medicines and medical equipment, keep cropping up. Sometimes there are grievances of inadequate healthcare facilities, and sometimes there are complaints of poor doctor-patient ratio. Now there are reports that in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, there is only one certified cardiologist to cater to a population of more than 37 million. Recently, this bitter ‘reality’ surfaced during the hearing of a case pertaining to substandard stents, at the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The apex court expressed annoyance with the performance of the provincial healthcare commission in this regard.
Indeed, the whole situation is appalling where one heart specialist is available for an entire province. And it’s surprising too that with such a poor cardiologist-patient ratio, last year 4,615 heart procedures had been performed in the province. The chief justice, heading a three-member bench that heard the case, felt anger at this state of affairs and said the chief executive officer of the K-P healthcare commission should take corrective measures, as it involves the question of human life. The CEO Punjab Healthcare Commission informed the court that in his province there were 40 certified cardiologists. Upon this, the chief justice said even this was inadequate, as there should be 40 cardiologists in a city like Lahore alone.
Another judge on the bench commented that the issue of cardiac diseases had become a business because of official negligence and sidelining of physicians and experts. A doctor claimed that the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan did not approve stents okayed by the National Intervention Cardiology Board. The Supreme Court has ordered healthcare commissions of all four provinces to submit reports on stents. The issue of substandard stents had emerged in 2012 when several heart patients died at the Punjab Institute of Cardiology, in Lahore due to insertion of alleged substandard stents.



Systematic suppression


After all that has happened, it is not surprising to hear that WhatsApp has blocked the accounts of dozens of Palestinian journalists following this month’s Israeli pillaging in different part of Palestine. Around 100 journalists in Gaza alone had seen their accounts blocked without justifiable cause. According to reports, 500 cases have been documented in which Palestinian “digital rights” had been violated between May 6 and May 19. Even Israeli journalists who have remained neutral in their reporting have been threatened, deemed as traitors and even fired from their jobs.
The levelling of a building housing media outlets indicates that Israel is hell bent on restricting on-ground reporting on the devastation that has occurred. Also, the international mainstream media did not, on purpose, report the issue with accuracy and empathy and remained biased on “one of the most pressing and divisive issues in international politics”. Palestinian’s have “died” but Israeli’s are “killed” — is this not the epitome of hypocrisy? Many celebrities also changed their stance in support of Israel after “careful deliberation” while those who remain steadfast supporters of Palestinians are being slandered on social media and through ad campaigns.
What can all this be but a systematic attempt by Israeli authorities to suppress the real truth from the world. And in order to save their skin from the bombardment of counter-narratives posed against them, they have adopted a rather clever method of erroneously conflating anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism. By doing so, they are using “Jewish suffering to erase the Palestinian experience”.
We must understand that forming an opinion comes only after impartial reporting of facts from both sides of the conflict. The latter being seriously curtailed and reality is being morphed in order to carry on with the brutal oppression. However, let us not underestimate the power of social media. We must continue to lend our voices to our helpless brothers. From amid the rubble of uncertainty and chaos, the truth always finds a way.



PSX: record volume


The Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) witnessed record in terms of trading volume, of 1.56 billion shares, on Wednesday, soaring further to 2.2 billion shares on Thursday. The benchmark index, however, had a roller coaster ride, rising by 512 points on Wednesday and then falling by 22 points on Thursday.
The rise in the share volume on both days was led by WorldCall Telecom, accounting for nearly half the trading. Government officials, including Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar, were quick to paint the trade volume spike on Wednesday as a sign of a sustained recovery and confidence in “the successful containment” of the third wave of Covid-19. However, Umar’s own comments undercut his argument. He noted that the previous record was broken by a 39% margin.
If we consider the extremely high trade volume for WorldCall to be an anomaly — its shares rarely ranked among the leaders in trade volume before a spike in interest this week — overall trade volume was mostly flat. At the same time, the fact that 77 KSE-100 stocks were up and only 20 down did show that market confidence was higher, just not as much as Umar would like us to believe.
More significant, however, is that we underscore how the belief that a strong stock market signifies a strong economy has been rubbished. Look at the US, where, amid the peak of the Covid-19 crisis, share prices began booming, even as unemployment and wealth disparities hit record highs. This is because, as noted, the rich kept getting richer and playing the stock market with that extra money. Similar things happened here in the past. The upper classes may remember stock market booms of the past as times of prosperity. But how many middle and lower-income people remember them the same way?
The truth is that income disparity consistently spiked during good times for the stock market because the supposed link between the market and the economy has ties to trickle-down economics, the disproven belief that if the rich get richer, prosperity will eventually trickle down to the poor. Stock market gains are not a bad thing, but on their own, they are also not proof of a healthy economy.

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