New Prime Minister and reform agenda – Opinion

Pakistan needs all fundamental structural reforms in all areas of governance. Most important and immediate, however, is political stability – the main challenge facing Pakistan’s 23rd Prime Minister, Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif.

Before taking the oath, after being elected with 174 votes from the members of the National Assembly, he made a number of commitments, reported among others by the Associated Press of Pakistan. These measures were more related to firefighting than to fundamental structural reforms. In this article, an attempt is made to highlight some key areas requiring immediate attention.

The best way to achieve transparency in public finances and eradicate financial crimes is the creation of a central crime-fighting agency, as highlighted in the article Uprooting Corruption: Lessons from China, Global Village Space , May 12, 2021. Political parties must get rid of tax evaders and those who live beyond their means in their ranks and queues.

Parties should also get rid of the cult – one man controlling the whole party. Once elected Prime Minister, he must not lead the party. So far, no political party adheres to the fundamental norm of democracy which is the separation of party control and management of state affairs. The party should hold the government accountable.

In total violation of the Constitution, no party organizes elections as elsewhere in the world where there is a real democracy. This is the main area we need to focus on before we talk about economic recovery. Authoritarianism is apparent in our political culture.

No one should be essential. Individuals come and go – what matters is the welfare of the masses, the effective functioning of institutions and the enforcement of the rule of law. The democratization of political parties, the accountability of all and the supremacy of the Constitution can alone strengthen democracy – this is also necessary to check external institutional influence and the control of the party by those who have the power of money .

It is time to reform all institutions and ensure the economic progress of Pakistan for which a detailed roadmap is given in Friend for all seasons, Stories, 8 May 2021 explaining what we can learn from our most trusted friend China while celebrating 70 years of cherished relations and the importance of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Shakeel Ahmad Ramay’s recent article, Fixing the economy and CPEC, The News, April 11, 2022, gives many pragmatic solutions to fixing the economy as well as CPEC and the following paragraph is worth quoting:

“In conclusion, the ruling elite, the new government and the parties will have to work on four areas, which is a prerequisite for making the CPEC cooperation a success. First, the ruling elite will have to get the house in order, and the political elite will have to break out of their self-aggrandizement mentality. Second, the government should design an SEZ policy and immediately cooperate with agricultural policy.

Third, there should be no political games or points for presenting oneself as the champion of Sino-Pakistani brotherhood. As China does not care about parties or individuals, China only cares about the State of Pakistan and the people of Pakistan. Especially PMLN and PPPP will have to learn this and they must avoid self-projection on this front”.

Salient points for consideration by all political parties and the national debate to evolve the national reform agenda, beyond party affiliations, before the next elections can be:

  1. Creation of a new province – South Punjab Province – for which a Constitutional Amendment Bill has already been tabled in the National Assembly, tabled on March 24, 2022.

  2. Make Karachi a federal territory to ensure that it receives due funds and the best administration.

  3. Carry out fundamental reforms in the judicial system and in the administrative/governance apparatuses to eliminate the causes of litigation. Ensure the effectiveness and accountability of all institutions.

  4. Reorganize the education system to put an end to ignorance and illiteracy, and to make people competent rather than handing out paper titles and diplomas. The focus of education should be the creation of a tolerant, disciplined, courteous and knowledgeable society – capable of making innovations and technological advances.

  5. Hold direct Senate elections and give it the power to vote on the money bill.

  6. Decentralize political, administrative and financial responsibility to local governments. Education, health, housing, local policing and all civil amenities should be provided by elected representatives of local governments who should have the power to levy taxes for these purposes.

  7. Digitize, enforce transparency and accountability in governments at all levels to enable citizens to fully understand and participate in the national integration process.

  8. Reform public services, ensure fair treatment for employees with effective accountability and at all levels.

  9. Eliminate terrorism, bigotry, bigotry, intolerance and violence through law enforcement and taking concrete measures to ensure the social development of society based on the higher values ​​of life and humanity.

  10. Implement strict laws to combat terrorist financing, money laundering, plunder of national wealth, political cancellation of loans and leakage of tax revenues.

  11. Devise long-term and short-term strategies to break the shackles of the debt trap, make Pakistan a self-sustaining economy, and ensure social security and economic justice for all citizens.

  12. Reform and strengthen public finance management. Transparent public spending combined with effective performance.

  13. Control unnecessary and non-development related expenses.

  14. Reform of the technical, institutional and organizational dimensions of public finance.

  15. Ensure good governance and administrative and judicial structures free from corruption.

  16. The federal government should collect only income tax and customs duties. The harmonized sales tax on goods and services should be a provincial matter. All federal, provincial and local taxes must be collected by a single agency (National Tax Authority) which must also pay pensions and other social security payments to all citizens.

  17. Reduce excessive marginal tax rates by making them compatible with other tax jurisdictions around the world, particularly in Asia. Substantial reduction in the corporate tax rate. Eliminate onerous taxes and other regulations for the business sector which are major stumbling blocks for domestic and foreign investment. Simplification of tax laws and procedures.

Dr. Nadeem Ul Haque, Vice Chancellor of PIDE, in How Pakistan Became an Asian Tiger by 2050, offered an optimistic, futuristic and realistic outlook for a prosperous Pakistan. Unfortunately, this work has not yet received the attention it deserves from policy makers, legislators, academics, business people and administrators.

Our politicians, administrators, intellectuals and entrepreneurs continue to complain about the multiple and complex challenges facing Pakistan, but rarely strive to implement even the solutions available and feasible by local experts. We want the IMF, the World Bank and others to reform us. This is our real tragedy and dilemma.

We must value and implement Indigenous solutions based on research after debate in public and in national and provincial assemblies and in the Senate. Standing and special committees should invite (through virtual platforms if necessary) experts to attend and there should be a live broadcast so that the public learns about the process of legislation for beneficial reforms.

(Huzaima Bukhari & Dr. Ikramul Haq, Lawyers and Partners of Huzaima, Ikram & Ijaz, are Adjunct Professors at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Advisory Board Members and Visiting Principal Scholars of Pakistan Institute of Management Development Economics (PIDE). Abdul Rauf Shakoori is a US-based corporate lawyer and expert in White Collar Crimes and Sanctions Compliance. They recently co-authored a book, Pakistan Tackling FATF: Challenges and Solutions)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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