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Ramblings of a not yet eighteen years old.

People of Pakistan turned from watching their Satellite Dish programmes to see two magicians perform on PTV in the month of June and July. Their make believe tricks rivalled any programme on ZEE T.V. and STAR PLUS which Pakistanis watch regularly. May be the two gentlemen should have also announced the signing of a MoU for STARISATION of PTV, as the Power Generation problem seems to have solved itself with shutting up of more than 4000 industrial units and increase in tariff by 21%. May be the romantic era of Candle Light Dinners will return.

The statistics balancing act by the Finance Minister was only for a select audience. May be the World Bank and IMF were amused by the trick and the opposition MNAs got their queues for the academic discussion that was to follow.

The IMF and the world Bank are happier as our sovereignty is slipping their way without having to undergo the problems "EAST INDIA Company" faced. May be time is not for when budget will be prepared entirely by IMF.

The MNAs are happier having had enough time in the capital and the assembly to pass their chits to the Ministers and Perform Wonders for their constituents. May be they will get more votes next time.

There were others watching PTV were they happy? Were they dumb enough to be taken in by the slogan, "Prosperity is around the corner", yet again.

The best conjuring trick was the collection of "Rs. 220 Billion" against the third time scaled down target of Rs. 224 Billion inspite of all the strikes, closure of industries, kidnapping of businessmen in Karachi, and lowering of import tariff etc. etc.

However, if the advance taxes and duties paid by PTC, Defence Department, WAPDA, other Government Agencies, and extortions from the business class in shape of exorbitant wealth taxes and duties along with taxing all the exemptions being practised for ages, are deleted from the figure, it would be easy to see through the trick. May be printing notes is still the better trick.

The main attraction this year is not additional taxation in the budget. May be the 5% increase in POL rates, 21% increase in power tariff, a reported 24% gas price increase to follow will not push up the food prices, the industrialists will not increase their rates, the shopkeepers will freeze their prices. May be the import prices will decrease after increase of with-holding tax from 2 to 4%. Of course, the consumer will benefit and will not have to pay 30% more to buy his necessities. All that will not increase the price of exports and we will not have to devalue our revered rupee.

The trade policy that the Minister for Commerce announced, could not even impress me leave alone the ailing industry and the export sector. May be he has a limited scope any way what with the W.T.O. and I.S.O. -- 9000 and quotas and things.

We seem to have increased the exports in the Petroleum sector, Sugar, Rice, Textiles and Stud. The increase in exports in textile sector is very much reflected in the closure of so many units. The permits issued for export of Sugar, Aata, bitumen must have really boosted exports.

Likewise the quota of imported cotton must have really helped the textile manufacturers. May be all these permits were not really designed to help the economy at all. What with "cotectna" breathing down the importers' necks and the sorry state of affairs in Karachi, if imports registered an increase, may be it was because of higher prices, definitely not due to the increase in demand. The steps taken to improve textile exports cannot miss. The cases against textile industries and the receivers sitting there are certainly going to help.

I am sure the change in the pesticide import policy is going to help our farmers. The implications for the soil, water, air and health of the people does not matter. May be some business tycoon was lurking in the shadows when this decision was made. Lucky him! Maybe the NOC's for lubricants imports have also been linked with permits issued to the political sector. That certainly makes things a lot easier. Why not make all business men C.I.P.S. and then have them shot at by the sales tax staff.

I venture to give a few suggestions of my own:

1. The best ambassadors from Pakistan can only be from the Harvard and Oxford Club. May be they can seduce their counter parts in countries where manpower is required and make way for manpower export. After all this could earn us a lot of foreign exchange for the country and also the Ambassadors. May be the frustrated youth of Karachi could be exported to countries where fighters are required. They could return home after they have spent their fury and also found employment in the process. May be that could effectively solve the Karachi problem. Maybe we could interest the politicians elsewhere of the cultural importance of "Mujra". That could be a source of major foreign exchange earner. 2. The commerce Minister should sponsor an institution of higher learning where the art of insider trading, manipulation of the stock exchange, tax fraud, entertainment of bureaucrats and how to buy permits should be taught to the budding youth. It could save us foreign exchange spent on useless studies abroad. Maybe then we will not have to toil to get high scores in SAT exams to enter American Universities and learn nothing. 3. Why not sell all our industries to foreign buyers through the privatisation commission. We cannot seem to be able to run them any way. Maybe in this manner we can beat the west at their own game. The industrialists from the West running our industries may be able to have more favourable laws made regarding exports. We Pakistanis can all dabble in trading. Maybe we can then enjoy the benefits of lower import tariff in accordance with the dictates of powers that be. 4. CBR is looking for staff to collect sale tax. I suggest the dacoits are interviewed for the job. It would give a tremendous boost to sales tax collection. What with the facility of breaking locks and shooting people with Government sanction, decoities would only take place at the business premises. Maybe the residences of the people would then not be broken into. 5. Balancing the budget should not be a problem for the Government. If all the Afghan transit wallas, smugglers, and the revenue collecting officials were requested to deposit the required amount of money in the government treasury, they would gladly oblige. Maybe they are already paying their share but not to the treasury.

May be we will become an Asian Tiger or may be the writing is on the wall or Maybe -- Maybe.......
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Author:Akbar, Ali
Publication:Economic Review
Date:Aug 1, 1995
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