Tuesday, November 2, 2010

We need a good Pied Piper

When the present democratic government took over, people saw a light on the other side of the mountain. Everyone awaited the new government to address their grievances for a better living. But now after a couple of years, the perception of people is changing. The very “awami” government has made the living of the “awam” miserable and difficult. The term “awam” was originated by the founder of the PPP, Mr Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto, which he used for the poor and downtrodden ordinary people of Pakistan. For the “awam” he was the good pied piper to lead them out of the mess they had been living in for years, rather than taking to the valley of death (as did the legendary pied piper did). Well did he?

We all know that he did not – and even every successive government used this magic word to gain sympathies and votes to win the elections and then rule the very “awam” and lead them to more miseries and poverty. Let me explain. The price of flour from Rs. 300 per kilogram in 2008 has soared to Rs. 530 and is increasing. Suddenly sugar selling at Rs. 27 started gaining momentum and as of today it is almost touching Rs.100. Price of one dozen eggs is now Rs. 80 (I bought last night) as against Rs. 35 in year 2008.

The electricity is falling like a thunderbolt on the awam. The government has decided to increase the cost per unit by 2pc per month taking to 35pc in coming months. While the country has the power generation capacity of some 21,000 MW, only 12,000-15000 MW is being produced and remaining capacity remains uncapped. Instead of utilizing the installed capacity and potential, the government has decided to import RPPs (as the once imported the IPPs in Benazair’s first term in the office). The cost per unit of electricity from the RPPs is going to be much higher than the IPPs.

And remember, all these power projects are thermal based, which will be run on fuel imported from outside. Fuel – which operates cars and motorcycles, public transport, railways and aircraft. Fuel which will also operate RPPs. Fuel which is very expensive, fuel which can make people richer and richer. And this is what is going on for quite sometime now. The recent price hike of fuel prices by 8% is going to have its effects multiplied. Not only will it make the life of Awam more miserable as even using motorcycle will become difficult to maintain. The fares of public transport will increase, and those who do not own any transport, will have to pay more for commuting to their place of work. The prices of eatables and other household items will correspondingly increase as these are transported in the public transport.

The viscous circle has been set into motion with the recent price hike of the fuel. Now whatever remains in the pockets of the poor will be taken out and will be used to make rich more rich and richer. Poor will go down many notches from the exiting level of their subsistence. This one decision of increase in fuel prices is going to have far reaching effects on every facet of life of the awam – the poor ordinary people who cannot do but mourn the demise of their living, if any there was before.

It seems whenever there is a crisis, the entire burden is thrown on the shoulders of the poor. But does any bit of it is ever shared by the government? Never, as one can see the lavish spending and visits abroad. We have ministers and aides more than the USA for a country much smaller in size and population. The high officials have unmatched perks and privileges despite the fact that poor are dying of hunger. People talk of change of government, but would it make any difference if party B or C succeeds and gets elected? Unless our mindset is changed and we realize that we are a poor nation, striving hard to survive, nothing would any meaningful change. Our ground realities must be translated into long drawn strategies to combat poverty and reducing corruption at the top. The life style of our top must reflect that of a poor nation, and not that of USA or any advances country, where presidents and others travel in bullet proof cars. In our case, even minister have started using these very expensive cars as if when the angel of death when it comes will go back empty handed since the-would-be-dead was traveling in a bullet proof car.

We desperately need to change our outlook to solving problems. We need to curtail our expenses drastically, starting from the top, rather than increasing prices for the poor. Let us live as humble and poor and then build up ourselves be diverting every penny for development of infrastructure, industry, agriculture to boost our exports and reduce reliance on imports. We can live without expensive imported toiletries, canned foods ad big cars, which all are purchased using our precious foreign exchange reserves. If we don’t change our lifestyle, we would be doing more harm to this nation of ours and its poor awam and its future.

The wake up signal has been given. We need our pied pipers to lead us to life, not to miseries and ultimate death as did the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

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