Be positive!

Even though a year has passed since the ‘Great Khan’ and his very able ministers came to power, there are people who actually believe that Imran Khan is the only one who can save the country and pull it out of its current mess, for part of which he is himself responsible. One such PTI supporter even told me, a week after the Kashmir crisis made us forget everything else, that somehow the magic of Khan’s personality would solve all our problems. Like when huge reserves of oil would be found in the sea near Karachi, just because he said so. There was another one who sent me a video in which the narrator urged his listeners to be positive instead of sliding into acute depression, as I had done.

The thing is I have studied everything that this government says it has achieved, and that is what makes me pessimistic, unless you can call the huge debt of thousands of billions an achievement. I try hard but I simply can’t ignore the fact that the prices of bread and other edibles have risen steeply in the past year. This despite the fact that the Dear Leader himself said that gas would be sold at subsidised rates to tandoors. Potatoes and onions now cost three times what they did a year ago. I remember the Great Khan saying that he would constitute a committee to look into the high rate of inflation, but I don’t know what came of it. Probably after holding a few meetings in which samosas, pastries and tea were consumed in great quantities, the committee members didn’t find any proof that the past government was responsible for the rising prices.

The common man, of course, is not concerned with such abstract terms as GDP and macroeconomic factors. All he knows is that even though he is not earning much more than he did a year ago, his expenses have increased due to prices going through the roof. He has to pay more for petrol, electricity and gas. But that is not all. His expenses on food have also increased sharply and he doesn’t know how he’ll survive. You can excuse him for seriously considering suicide; yes, I have met some people who said they would be better off dead.

Whichever way you look at it, this government has been ineffective. There was this news item about the current account deficit decreasing by seventy-three percent, but how does that benefit the common man? All it means is that the values of our imports have decreased compared to our export earnings, which has stabilised the dollar. A cursory look at the figures tells us that importers have stopped importing because of the very high value of the dollar due to devaluation, as well as the rise in cost due to the regulatory duties imposed on most imported items, which has made imports prohibitive.

Export figures have not increased at all, as expected, despite massive devaluation. But now smugglers have stepped in, getting into the country all those items that are too expensive to import due to the high value of the dollar and the regulatory duties. The government gains nothing; it’s only the smugglers who benefit.

I believe that among those who are praying for the long life and prosperity of the Dear Leader are smugglers and other such criminals, like those who evade taxes and those who get loans written off. Among the ones praying are the feudal lords who are exempted from paying income tax on their agricultural income, and those who get elected and then decide how much tax we should pay to support their lavish lifestyles.
Which brings me to what past governments were bitterly criticised by the Great Leader for doing: waiving off loans every year or so. Without considering the ramifications of the step, the PTI government has decided to waive two hundred and eight billion rupees due from a few industrialists. I know that most Pakistanis, particularly those belonging to the PTI, are weak in mathematics, but just to put things in perspective, two hundred and eight billion rupees is equal to almost a billion and a half dollars.

Then there is the estimated loss of five billion dollars every year to the nation due to smuggling. And there is another huge loss due to NAB being told not to pursue cases against sales tax evaders. Their cases have been sent back to the FBR where the files will gather dust until the cases get time-barred. All this deliberate loss despite the country being in dire economic straits, as the Great Khan himself has said on all his visits abroad. Waiving off loans, allowing smugglers a free hand, not recovering taxes from tax evaders, no wonder we have to beg the IMF and others to bail us out. So what difference is there between the PTI government and those who ruled over us in the past?

Not much to be positive about, is there?
The writer is an engineer, a former visiting lecturer at NED Engineering College