Millenium's second decade
For the coming second decade to be truly epochal, we have to put public interest in the right perspective
We are on the threshold of the moment that has long been an idiom for every futuristic fancy with the byword: Vision 2020. Most such visions were replete with quantitative expansions and nary a thought for the enduring qualitative changes needed to make excellence the nation's standard. This is our denouement — at the end of the first decade of Y2K, economy depressed, strife widespread and the youth in despair, cities in the throes of every imaginable deficit and our rural landscape in neglect. We have proactively managed this descent through a persistent pursuit of irrelevant agendas. There is an apocryphal story that has become an oft-cited Turkish proverb about the forest that kept voting for the axe because the latter persuaded and convinced them that as its handle was made of wood, it was one of them. Not that we have been spoilt for choice, we elected whoever appeared as the lesser evil at that time. So, we progressed slowly despite having the capacity and the potential to have done better.
The advent of 2020, the new and next decade is beckoning us. Whatever is done at this time is the only chance to get it right. As the saying goes, life is like a parachute jump, you have to get it right the first time. It is the best time to address some fundamental issues. A country of the size as ours is a federation in body and spirit. We keep acting like a unitary one with fiats and edicts being handed down to the constituent state governments. While those of compatible political inclinations are happy to comply and also get a favoured child status, those in the opposite fold are discriminated and even legitimate dues are held back for trading with political advantage. Political colours are good for electoral contests, but governance has to be politically neutral. That is the only way substantive developments can happen. A little bit of ideology and a little bit of ethics would help in the relations between the Centre and the provincial governments. And, the same would hold true of the equation between the provincial government and the municipal government. If this is not remedied, then we can say that progress will be temperamental but never consistent. The federal spirit must truly reign in our midst.
The country's financial integrity has to be beyond question. Finance, money and economics work best with their innate logic and momentum. Every attempt to deviate from the basics will increase the costs to the producer and hence to the consumer, which will add up to unjust enrichment of the few or undeserved poverty of millions. Gaming financial architecture has cost us dearly. The mountain-sized NPAs, fiscal regime lacking certainty, law enforced in fits, slow resolution mechanisms and needless conflict creation, have hurt us in any number of ways. Many of the causes were avoidable and have only hastened our slide. When governments become reticent in data sharing, people will make their own surmises. In this world of knowledge economy, there are so many ways of testing the veracity of information put out, that it is counterproductive to put a spin or a nationalistic fervour on it. GDP at 4.5 per cent or less can happen for any number of reasons including policy mistakes. Denials only make the policymaker look worse than an honest admission of error. No ruler in the history of mankind has been able to control or regulate the airwaves and only undemocratic governments restrict the free flow of knowledge and that too at a huge cost of credibility. Governments must have 'IQBAL' and so long as they uphold the majesty of law, we will get prosperity.
For the coming second decade to be truly epochal, we have to put public interest in the right perspective. Selective or targeted groups receiving benefits while the deserving are excluded will surely put us in the category of misgovernance if not a failed one. Education and health have to be politics- and religion-neutral. Scientific temper does not distinguish between artificial biases and that is what our new generations need to cultivate and internalise. If our respect for competence is going to be coloured by kinship or such trifles, we are breeding a culture of sycophants and that is a sure path to the ruin of good and merit. We have the capability and the passion of the young population and they must have the freedom to prosper in their cherished ambition. Governance by law creates that environment and hence it is a compelling need and not a choice to be made as we go along.
Time is relentless and waits for nobody. As believers in reincarnation, we think in terms of many lifetimes not usually available to the rest of the dwellers on this planet. It is best if this luxury is relegated to the personal domain only and does not affect our policy and work areas. Speedy implementation of ideas needs micro detailing and respecting the solemnity of schedules will do wonders than the cosmetic improvements to the ease of doing business we have been crowing about. This is far more relevant to the actions of the executive and the judiciary whose measures impact our daily work. Our seriousness of purpose will directly influence the rate of progress.
New Years are all about making resolutions; what is a new decade about? Perhaps a whole magnum opus of resolutions. No, let us keep it simple. Just make one: Peace amongst our people. Actually, we can live with two and this is to stay with the truth. It helps us understand our land of paradoxes better.
Views expressed are strictly personal