COMMENT: For he, that once hath missed the right way —Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur - Sunday, April 10, 2011

Combined expenditure on health and education in 30 years is little more than half of that for defence in 2010-11 alone. The defence budget was jacked up 17 percent in 2010-11 and a further 18 percent rise is in the offing

Crises are not news here but, of late, they have encompassed the entire economic, social and political spectrum, exposing the prevailing malignant and dangerous situation and indicating that even more distressing and devastating times are to come. The doctors’ strike, uproar over the HEC devolution, anti-extortion industry protests, increasing food insecurity, rampaging inflation, nearly daily suicide attacks, ever increasing electricity and gas load shedding, falling standards of education, pathetic healthcare, repression of national rights and abductions and killings of Baloch are all indicators of the malignancy of the crises.

Reasons abound but the main reason is the ‘establishment’s’ dogmatic obsession with warped priorities. The dreams of a flag on Lal Qilla, the ‘strategic depth’ and ‘strategic assets’ policy, the ‘ummah bomb’, the false notion of invincibility and infallibility and use of unbridled force to bring all in line have all added to our woes.

The present situation is neither accidental nor externally created; it is the result of ill-planned state policy. Mr Tasneem Siddiqui, in a column from August 2007, ‘Elite consensus under strain’, said, “India may not have been a good neighbour, but the hype of enmity and permanent hostility was deliberately created. As a result, the social sectors were relegated to the lowest priority and most of the resources were diverted to nonproductive uses. In our first budget, over 60 percent of income was allocated to defence, and in October 1947, Mr Jinnah requested the US government to sanction a loan of three billion dollars to modernise the Pakistan army.”

Bourke-White, a Life magazine correspondent and photographer, interviewed Jinnah during partition and soon after. These excerpts will give you the picture: “When asked what plans he had for the industrial development of the country, and did he hope to enlist technical or financial assistance from America: ‘America needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs America,’ was Jinnah’s reply. ‘Pakistan is the pivot of the world, as we are placed...the frontier on which the future position of the world revolves’...‘Russia,’ confided Mr Jinnah, ‘is not so very far away.’”

Since then this ‘pivot of the world’ has gone astray and as Edmund Spenser (1552-1592) in his poem Faerie Queen says,

“For he, that once hath missed the right way,

The further he doth goe, the further he doth stray.”

Little wonder then that during the year 2010-11, Rs 442.2 billion was allocated for defence while the health allocation was cut by 27 percent. A couple of years back, Fakharuddin G Ibrahim said: “During the last 30 years, Rs 178.3 billion had been spent on education and Rs 98 billion on health while, on the other hand, around Rs2,835 billion had been consumed on defence alone.” Interestingly, combined expenditure on health and education in 30 years is little more than half of that for defence in 2010-11 alone. The defence budget was jacked up 17 percent in 2010-11 and a further 18 percent rise is in the offing.

The real spending on the military is much higher because the billions allocated for military pensions, the rangers, civil armed forces, coastal guards, special areas of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and even schools in cantonments are under the civil budget. The real financial cost of making and maintaining A-bombs is strictly under wraps and so is the environmental cost that Balochistan bore.

With ‘national security’ being the priority it is, money to the health and education sector is precluded. There will be no wavering from this disastrous policy until of course there remains nothing to defend or any goal to pursue.

Though military expenditure is the major cause, it is not the only reason why other sectors are utterly neglected. A glance at the expenses of the President’s House and Prime Minister’s House tell the story. In 2010, the President’s House and Prime Minister’s Secretariat expenditure was increased by 14 and 13 percent respectively, and they were not on a shoestring budget before. Raised to Rs 447 million and Rs 484 million respectively, a total of Rs 931 million, translates into Rs 2.55 million daily — mind you, this is spent come what may. Expenses incurred on trips and protection are not disclosed. Add to this the recent 50 percent salary raise of MNAs and all that is spent on senators, the cabinet, provincial assemblies and cabinets and not much remains behind to use for education, health or other things.

Pakistan has received $ 27.8 billion in civilian and military aid from the US since 1947; it also received $ 18.5 billion from the World Bank (WB), $ 16 billion from the IMF and $ 15 billion from the ADB. Where all this money has gone is truly surprising because, under the Marshall Plan between 1948 and 1952, the US gave $ 13 billion in economic assistance to war-destroyed Western Europe and it recovered while the $ 77 billion plus from the US and WB, etc, not to mention the other loans, grants received from anyone who would give made no improvement here. All they can boast of is ‘the bomb’, F-16s, suicidal ‘strategic assets’ and a delusional sense of superiority. When 70 percent plus of all that is earned and received is spent on the military and the rest on upkeep of the ‘establishment’ and elite then this situation is a natural consequence.

The beg-and-spend policy has resulted in a distressing situation and, last year, foreign debt stood at $ 55.6 billion and the domestic debt at Rs 4.3 trillion. Rs 902.8 billion is needed annually to service domestic and external loans so precious little is left to improve other sectors. This borrowing continues as does the waste on warped priorities; those hoping for future improvement will be sorely disappointed.

Microsoft spends $ 9 billion annually on its research and development and leads the world. In 2008, Exxon Mobil Corporation set records for annual and quarterly profits. It earned a net income of $ 45.22 billion. Full-year revenue stood at $ 477 billion, or just over $ 1.3 billion a day.

The rulers here are capable of spending a billion dollars daily; it is little wonder that Pakistan stands at 137 in the UN’s Human Development Index. Over 35 percent of its population lives below the poverty line, 31 percent lives on less than one dollar daily and 85 percent lives on less than two dollars daily.

The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at

Source :\04\10\story_10-4-2011_pg3_2

No comments:

Post a Comment