Guns Versus Butter: Choose Better, Pakistan
Born out of the catastrophic partition of the subcontinent, Pakistan immersed itself into an ideological state with a coherent existential crisis. The argument was that with a colossal neighbor ready to obliterate Pakistan’s very fabric, the country had to shun the infamous Guns vs Butter debate in favour of the former.
What do the Guns vs Butter debate entail?
This was an ensuing topic for much of the country’s earlier years of existence with its establishment and civilian leadership often at a crossroads with one another over the allocation of scarce resources and the country’s already minuscule budget. And ultimately what is of more salience: ensuring that an overpopulated nation-state receives its access to better health, education, etc. or aggrandizing its military prowess?
Fast forward to today and we find ourselves in shambles. Inept politicians, self-serving sycophants, and trickle-down corruption on a bureaucratic level has resulted in Pakistan often being sorrily compared to the likes Congo, Sudan, and other dysfunctional African states in terms of Human Development Index.
Overlooking the State’s sheer impotence in providing the most basic of amenities, we need to cross the rubicon and look at the bigger picture. All the Western countries which we so aspire to become only became what they are today because of the mobilization of all resources on Health and Education.
Another emerging superpower, China, was an opium-laced nation just half a century ago but progress in the state’s ability to provide basic amenities ensured that it continues to evolve and become the formidable dragon that it is today. The China-model although focuses on the State’s relentlessness and requires absolute subservience of its people, a State is only as strong as its people and an educated workforce with better access to health results in a citizenry which is nonchalant about the operations of the State.
Pakistan has continued to falter and flattered-to-deceive incessantly despite the return of democracy. All the budgets presented by the PPP, PML-N and now the PTI governments have been a sorry-tale of capitulation to the mini-Kleptocracies which these governments form once they take over power.
Despite the extraordinary concession of freezing the country’s massive-elephantic Defence budget granted by the country’s perennial power player, the military, the country still suffers from cognitive dissonance when it comes to doling out big money for patronage and re-elections versus the perpetual Health and Education conundrum.
Even after setting the COVID novelty aside, the country is set to suffer from further dwindling fortunes partly because of a population bulge, water scarcity by 2030 and add to this a relentless debt cycle after every 5 years, turning these negative indicators into a grand looming Medusian recipe for disaster.
The budget of this year promises little respite for the oppressed and marginalized sections of the country vis-a-vis the COVID-19. The eastern border is already lit-up with paltry exchanges on the LOC although ironically the arch-enemy itself is in a Pakistan-esque replication after toying with religious and social fanaticism, taking a severe hit on its gigantic economy.
Prime Minister Khan has incessantly reiterated the concept of a ‘uniform educational system’. The educational system owes its mediocrity to the polarization between the madrassas, local Matriculation/Board and western O/A ‘Level system. Khan cannot afford to pull off a Bhutto (radical reform) as the razor-thin majority of his government has barely managed to break the shackles of keeping its allies, opposition and the bureaucracy in check.
This year’s budget has been the mirror image of what Hammad Azhar presented last year as our economic growth in 2020 is set to contract even further. Infant-steps such as decreasing wasteful expenditures can although still be taken but we need to remember that Herculian tasks require patience (Google up the time-lapse between the abolishment of slavery by Lincoln and eligibility of African-Americans to vote).
The state has shown tremendous resolution and application to get things done once it sets its sights on an ordained goal. Be it the war in Swat or South Waziristan or even an exercise as minute as the national census, the state has lived to fight for another day.
The same resolve and application is needed to not only ensure an increase in these sections of our annual fiscal budget, but also to ensure the implementation of: an increase of schools and hospitals via power wielded at the Tehsil-District level (De-Centralistan) because, change all over the world is always organic and indigenous.