The Failure of Economic Democracy | Dr Zafar Altaf

Democracy is not about national assemblies and certainly not about asset building. It has its roots everywhere and is answerable on all these counts. You cannot have a hybrid adha titar adha batair. The definition of a hybrid is interesting for it connotes that the outcome has virtuous of both and vices of none. But all that is water on duck’s back. Democracy requires a logical mind. A mind that discusses openly issues and above all a mind that is free from deceit and hypocrisy. Democracy is a burden for Pakistan. How well we are able to handle this was subtly explained by my former Chief Secretary who used to call it a ‘Ghus Ja mohim’ (forcible power entry). It is as if it is beast of burden.

We have had policy statements by all and sundry on the Economic corridor that China is to establish. In the process a new city was to come up besides other industrial zones where entrepreneurs would establish industry. Let us talk about the new city. The Chinese came and wanted to see the data that the Punjab Babudom was to have gathered from the site. The Chinese outrightly rejected the data calling it useless and were surprised at the levels of inefficiency. They went to the task straight away. One of the biggest changes in Chinese society is the discipline that Mao and Chou inculcated in the people. We do not have Mao and Chou but we have hairless wonders that stop at nothing to acquire land assets. The son-in-law is again rampant in Punjab and is acquiring whatever is available. The signal-free corridor is another example of an infrastructure that is meant for the public but will serve the Sharifs as they have acquired lands in Rawat and asked the revenue authorities not to approve any land transaction. Democracy is ill served in such systems and especially if we are trying to catch up on democracy and capitalism with the world. But all that is water on duck’s back. They will continue as they are hungry and greedy. All previous work has been done on ideological forces on democracy but the current trend is something that is totally different. Democracy and capitalism seem to go together. As a consultant to the Central Asian Republics, I had the opportunity to study this transition from communism and socialism to capitalism. The insight that one had was totally different. At that time in the mid nineties I had predicted that the capitalism model that is emerging in China would be successful. The Chinese had called it selective democracy. It was modified to take into consideration communist ideology. So the behaviour was totally different. The last Presidents and the current PM are products of that philosophy. We are totally different inasmuch as we are black and white people and in behavioural terms we are based on an errant thinking system; there are no limits to aberrant behaviour.

The other day I was lamenting that there is not a single historian in the country to try and focus on our past and to learn lessons from it. Our scholarship is damning to say the least. In fact our richness is directly involved with our lack of education. It’s the insensitive hide that takes all the riches come what may. Economic democracy is dependent on the issues of debate and dialogue in real economic systems and to ensure that the institutions are independent and allow for equal access by and to all. Can this be the case? If you think so then go through the licenses that have been given to textile manufacturers. Since the entrepreneurship has been based on cronyism there is no chance for the market players to be at par with those created by governments. Economic ideals cannot emerge in an unscathed manner in a society that is not based on market orientation. The recent financial market decline is due to the Chinese devaluing the Yuan. For once the tail that wagged and dropped the financial markets of the west was due to the Eastern marketing system. Pakistan is caught in the middle and so is India. The Modi government immediately called a meeting of the corporate sector. Economic constraints and political dilemmas go together. Our entrepreneur’s selection was based on parochial and sadly myopic views. For entrepreneurs are based on not money requirements but on the ability to take risks. Risks are market-oriented. Where are all those entrepreneurs that this government created? It was my experience that government policies that act as constraints lead to uncertainty. Risk and uncertainty are volatile mixtures that explode socially and lead to situations that are like Balochistan, Karachi and other areas where macroeconomics has not worked. So when our leaders or whoever and whatever they speak of good macroeconomic statistics they do not understand the causalities that they have to address. Sadly the farmers are again at the receiving end. Sadly the social systems are creating more miscreants. The hedonistic view of life was given up much earlier. All the systems are linked and if one gives way the other sector will automatically suffer. The economic systems haemorrhaging will lead to more brain concussions then we realise. Use it or lose it is an important emergent principle. The mind is subjected to it in a big way.

We talk of economics as if it is our handmaiden and whatever we do it will follow suit and be our obedient servant. The Moghul in me tells me that the political leadership is amassing assets like the hell. What in the world are the democratic institutions doing? Resting!! Criticality of political theory rests on thinking. But where is that thought process and where are the anchors that should do their job of incisive creativity? In a democratic system the physical world shrinks because the rationality is that reason will emerge. Reason is a country-based universality. I have repeatedly stated that to emerge at the forefront the elected democrats have to ensure that institutions deliver. The deliverance is poor.

If this democratic process is not suitable for us have we tried to develop and reconstruct a new one that is more appropriate to our needs? Do we know our political needs or are we helter-skelter in making resources at the expense of the public of this country. How many of our leaders have had an education that improves the mind or as Whitehead would have said that it takes us to an adventure in ideas. We are barren of these thoughts. Pregnant thought is what we are looking for.

What does it take to work on the emerging boundaries of thought and effort; much of the midnight oil. While others rest the leaders have to place their thoughts on the pulse of what the nation requires for its well being. The nation is amorphous and that is its great advantage that the subcontinent does not seem to understand. Living for each national is crucial. The source of development of a thought process is always developed by the universities but these universities are playing intrigue. Goondaism rules. OK.


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