Monday, January 2, 2012

What Not To Do in 2012: an open letter to the Prime Minister of Pakistan by Irfan Aamir

What not to do in 2012
An open letter to Prime Minister
By Irfan Aamir

Dear Prime Minister Gillani,

There are obvious reasons to believe that you think that all your troubles will go away because of your designer looks and your dedicated rhetoric for the presidency and the military establishments and not to mention your frequent conflicting statements; rest assured they won’t.
And though it might be a bit late for you Mr. Prime Minister to be able to present a great economic report card for your government's performance - come Dec. 2012 - it is still not too late to focus on things you and your "massively" talented (and at times emotional) federal cabinet ministers ought to have focused on from day one about 4 years ago. Since the time is too limited now to identify things your cabinet can do, perhaps you may consider simply focusing on things that should not be done in 2012: Please do consider the following:

(1) Economic policy: Your team can not afford to stick to politically charged and less meaningful narratives at all times. Tell them to start talking economy before it is too late, and sir, do not restrict your visibility to award ceremonies only. Be seen around major international business forums and events, go to the World Economic Forum – Davos is pretty – show up the ASEAN summits, bring big multimillion (make that billion?) dollar deals for the country. You need to pretend that you have an economic policy and a plan that will work wonders in the year number 5. Just do it. Pretend.
(2) Monetary policy: To better understand where money comes from and where it goes and how, Mr. Prime Minister you can not afford to still not buy a book from the nearest bookstore, Idiots Guide to Understanding Monetary Policies. Surely if you will Google there is such a book waiting to be downloaded. You must understand sir that nation's wealth cannot be created by printing currency notes, digitally and physically both. And so sir, find a permanent governor for the State Bank, it might help.

(3) Banker's interest: Please Mr. Prime Minster, reign in the banking industry. In the run-up to the next general elections you can NOT allow a banking debacle should your government, currently the largest customer of the commercial banks, default by stroke of some grave conspiracy to destabilize democracy in Pakistan. Ostensibly banks have no credit or 'interest' for the local industry and absolutely nothing for the trade and commerce. For how long will the banking industry continue to bank roll the government treasury bills is something that should be made public. This cannot and should not go on indefinitely sire. Do you appreciate?

(4) Don't neglect entrepreneurship: You should not ignore this vital space. Google what your counterparts across the world are doing including friends like Turkey and USA and you will notice the direction where it is believed that the world economy, if there is light at the end of the tunnel, will be rescued by small businesses and entrepreneurships. They generate employment, they pay taxes and they never default on bank loans. You see banks don't loan them money hence no default by default. By not ignoring entrepreneurs you might just be able to spur some economic activity in the space of small to medium size companies. Surely Mr. Prime Minister you are aware that in some of the leading economies of the world, the biggest contribution comes from small to medium size industries and entrepreneurial sectors.
(5) Education: You can not ignore education in 2012 also. Even for a formality even a trivial increase in the dedicated education budget in the annual budget – which would be the last budget of your government – will help you establish some credibility and score some points. Ideally you should not support the devolution of the Higher Education Commission; again such a step will help you restore some lost reputation.
(6) Law & dis-order: You critics believe that you have no resources to ensure law and order in the country, especially in the economically central cities like Karachi. Law and order, there is a perception, is more controlled by the lawless gangs themselves, as they can freely choose to disobey and cause mayhem at their will. Another set of your critics believe that you don’t have any idea of how difficult it is to run business, specially when you have been kidnapped and being held hostage for millions for dollars ransom. Do not deny, this is a sad and stark reality, that due to threat to their lives, many leading businessmen, during your reign of power have relocated their businesses and families to safer countries. How sad, don't you think?

(7) Agriculture: You are a grower yourself Mr. Prime Minister, most probably one of the top farmer of the country. Hence you must be acutely aware of the fact that despite being an agro-based economy the average annual growth of this sector in Pakistan has rarely gone above 2 percent over the last one decade. Hence you should not be lax and roll out some heart wrenching messages and share some strategies that will enable continuity of this vital sector. Did you know that despite being a top agro country of the world, Pakistan imported food inputs worth $1.52 billion in the last financial alone? And surely you know sir that half of our farm-produce, specially the more vulnerable kind, is grown but never gets to the market place and rots away on the way. This has to stop.

(8) Information department: You cannot argue Mr. Prime Minster that right now your government and the political party that you belong to are not very high on the popularity scale; hence, in the year 2012 you can not afford to not look for a better team in the Information Ministry. If there are two things that can really help restore credibility for your government, it would be better communication and relationship management. You must also ponder since when has it become OK for a sitting minister to resign 'on air' and in the presence of the Prime Minster as well as the rest of your cabinet members? You must appoint a suave individual looking after the information portfolio for the country and not just the image management of a handful of your party office bearers.

(9) Performance paradigm: Please do not forget to brief your many spokespersons to not defend their dismal performance in office. People at large and media in particular are keeping a close eye and perhaps the only thing that can set your government free, is the truth. Use it more often during 2012.

(10) Health on nation: With your vast wisdom you should surely know Mr. Prime Minster that if you don’t look after someone's health for too long they die. And dead people are no longer able to pay taxes and play their vital role in nation development. The miniscule amount the Government of Pakistan spends on health as compared to what you spend on Wars (Terror etc) is beyond embarrassing. Especially when you consider that more than a 100,000 people in Pakistan, mostly women, children and the poor, die each year due to preventable ailments. Do not forget to increase the health budget, it will make you popular.

(11) Institutions & regulators: Mr. Prime Minister, you should know that on the global indices of institutional performance Pakistan's position has been on a constant decline, some believe we are moving fast, but shockingly in the opposite direction. Please take all the institutions, some sensitive regulators as well to task during 2012. You should be seen as a hard task master in the year, you should show your deep concern for the rot that is setting in and show-business sir is a good business.
(12) Foreign relations: Last but not the least please do not stay alien to this concept, relationships with other countries helps, it was established about a 1,000 years ago. If Pakistan had good friends across the globe, including the Friends of Pakistan kind, you would have known by now. So beyond losing on the economic front on the popularity front one has reasons to believe that even on the international social scene you are not on the hot invite list. Do some networking, get invited.

Happy new year to you and your family.
Your humble tax payer.
The writer is a Karachi-based

communication consultant.
he can be reached at: