LAHORE: The government has almost exhausted the amount it earmarked for unemployed in this budget.
The jobless, however are increasing and a concern for poor seems to be over as state plans to increase the utility rates and indirect taxation.
Pakistani poor were unlucky in the sense that they were being governed by an incompetent government when covid-19 hit them.
There was huge job cut and unemployment in 16 months preceding the global pandemic. After the pandemic job situation nosedived globally more so in Pakistan.
Economic experts predict a very slow recovery indicating that some countries may experience negative growth and Pakistan is included among those countries.
The calm and confidence shown by the ruling elite belies any logic. The poor of this country are in for greater trouble and the government lacks resources to look after them. Where should the poor go?
It is understandable that the government lacks resources to provide direct help to the poor. But it looks strange that under these severe conditions, the state continue to resort to indirect taxes that are passed on to the consumers, majority of whom are poor.
The resources can be generated through better management and greater efficiencies. The state lacks resources because of mismanagement in all government affairs and inefficiencies in public sector companies.
The chief executive of the country seems helpless in reigning in the corrupt operating around him. He orders to bring back wheat prices to normal goes on deaf ear. He lacks concentration. One day he would talk about wheat, the other day about sugar and the next day for punishing the petrol mafia. He loses his creditability when all the goons operate without any fear.
He is averse to take clue from Shahbaz Sharif whom he calls Showbiz Sharif but who always delivered in all crisis like situations. He used to unleash the entire government machinery to achieve his targets be it prices, timely completion of projects or fighting dengue. When he ordered something publically his ministers or the bureaucrats never took it lightly. He accomplished what he wanted.
Chinese government was so impressed with his efficient operations that it named supreme efficiency as Punjab speed (he was heading the Punjab government).
The present government trusts no one. It wants ‘Punjab speed’ but lack the energy to pursue its goals. You have to literally burn your full energy to make improvements in Pakistan. The bureaucracy was given the task in the day and each top bureaucrat was summoned at the Chief Ministers house from 2-5 am to report progress. This continued regularly and things were fixed. The poor were happier. There was in fact shortage of labor as most got engaged. Poverty was on decline in what is termed by the present rulers as the most corrupt government in Pakistan.
The past government seems to be noble corrupt that looked after the poor. Poverty is on steep rise during the tenure of the government that claims to be the cleanest ever to rule Pakistan.
The rot started before covid-19 and has multiplied making life more miserable. The sensible way would have been to reduce the power sector inefficiencies including theft instead of plugging the shortfalls by increasing power tariff.
The government considers consumers below 300 units per month consumption as poor while in reality those that consume 600 units per months reach poverty level after paying their bills. If inefficiencies are covered through better management government could reduce the tariff.
Moreover low power consumption in the country is due to retarding industrial activities. If manufacturing is boosted the consumption would increase and reduce the burden of capacity charges.
The gas companies are posting huge losses again due to huge losses because of gas theft.
The burden of higher rates is borne by the poor to cover those losses.
For the first time we have seen that there is no enthusiasm among the poor and the lower middle class about the upcoming Eid-ul-Azha. The festival falling on August 1, was eagerly looked after by the poor.
They used to get enough meat from those that sacrificed animals. In fact for some of them it was the only occasion when some families tasted meat or beef in entire year. This time around the number of sacrificial animals is much less.