Maleeha Lodhi’s Economy

Dr Maleeha LodhiWatching the way some of our more prominent thinkers have treated the RGST in their columns has been an eye opening experience. For several, the tax bill was a PPP plot to punish the poor while protecting the rich…until it was set aside. Then not passing the bill was a PPP plot to punish the poor while protecting the rich! While these were quite obviously promoting a political agenda, I was more disappointed in the more subtle ways that some people put criticising the government ahead of moving the nation forward.

A perfect example of this is Maleeha Lodhi’s article from last week that accuses the PPP of sacrificing the economy to save the government, a most cynical suggestion that frankly defies all reason.

Please, let’s not forget so quickly what was happening only a few weeks ago: MQM quit the coalition in protest of the economic reforms and threatened to sit on opposition benches. Anti-government voices in the media were falling over themselves in hopes that a no-confidence vote would finally grant their wishes and unseat the PPP government. So, even if the PPP wanted to push through these economic reforms, which by all accounts they did (in fact, they seemed to be the only ones), they didn’t have the votes to do so.

But for the sake of argument, let’s consider the alternative. What if the PPP had thrown caution to the wind and stood firm. Any reforms would have been put off while a new government was formed. If the opposition parties managed to cobble together a coalition, it would have most certainly been led by the PML-N…who opposed the economic reforms.

So tell us, please, Dr Lodhi, in what alternate universe was it possible for Zardari to pass the economic reforms that he asked for? Also, if these reforms are as important as you now claim, why did you not use your status and influence to help the government when it was trying to bring other parties on board with the package?

This is what really frustrates me: When Dr Lodhi had the opportunity to pressurize the opposition parties that were standing in the way of the reform package, she chose rather to attack the government, even though it was the only group that was trying to get the reforms through.

If Dr Lodhi was really so concerned, why didn’t she use her very public voice to chastise Chaudhry Parvez Elahi when he said PML-Q would force a showdown rather than allow RGST to pass? No, rather she attacked the PPP who was supporting the measure.

What’s worst, this theme of Dr Lodhi’s has been picked up by the international media, most specifically in The Economist. Dr Lodhi’s spin on the topic could very well result in economists unnecessarily doubting the government’s commitment and further jeopardizing the nation’s economy even though the government has been very clear of its support for the reforms and is only trying to convince the opposition parties of its necessity.

Maleeha Lodhi concludes her latest column with the following paragraph:

In today’s strained political environment evolving consensus on a minimum reform agenda may seem a vain hope but the alternative – a descent into economic chaos – should serve as a reminder of what might happen if no policy correctives are implemented. This ought to urge different stakeholders to review their stance of putting short-term expediency before the country’s economic security. After all without such stability their political gamesmanship will be in vain.

I agree 100 percent. It remains to be seen, however, if Dr Lodhi will follow her own advice and work with President Zardari and PM Gilani to bring Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Altaf Hussain, and Nawaz Sharif to understand the importance of the government’s reform package. I understand that she has taken a job with Jang/Geo, but I would hate to think that someone of her stature would be “putting short-term expediency before the country’s economic security”.

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