Judging by the media coverage lately, the most serious threat to Pakistan and Islam is a reality TV show in India. While this seems to have raised the blood pressure of much of the nation’s intelligentsia, it should be relieved that if Pakistan’s greatest threat is an Indian reality TV show, we must be doing pretty well. The second most serious threat to Pakistan remains the old stand by issue for uncreative commentators facing a pressing deadline – corruption.
This past week has seen the return of corruption to the spotlight in the nation’s media. Presumably this is because the issue of rising extremism has been solved and all the flood affectees have been provided new housing and good jobs.
Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif termed corruption ‘the root cause of poverty and unemployment’ in the country.
Corruption has become a convenient excuse for politicians and intellectuals who are too scared or too lazy to formulate concrete suggestions for how to move the country forward. It is the way that these leaders avoid responsibility for their own failures. After all, everything they are doing would work just fine if it were not for ‘corruption’.
Think about Shahbaz Sharif’s statement. He says that:
Pakistan can be strengthened economically and put on the road to progress and prosperity through good governance, curtailing expenditure and eradicating corruption.
This is a nice statement to print in the newspaper, but it is completely lacking in specific policies or solutions. Yes, we all want ‘good governance’ but please explain what exactly you mean. Curiously, the CM then claims that Punjab government “had promoted a corruption-free culture in the province and every rupee of public money was being used in a transparent manner in the execution of development projects.”
Well, this should be a good test, then, shouldn’t it? If Punjab government is corruption-free and EVERY SINGLE RUPEE OF PUBLIC MONEY is being spent corruption free, then Punjab should be a shining example of prosperity and security. Just look at this model of Shahbaz Sharif’s ‘corruption free’ education system!
Jamil Nasir also describes corruption as the worst of the nation’s ills, but at least he comes to the discussion with some specific policy proposals that could be tested to find out if they could help limit bad practices in the future. These include simplifying rules and increasing accountability mechanisms. In this way his column is more useful than Shahbaz Sharif’s beating the drum of corruption to excuse his own failings.
Economic reforms aimed at simplifying cumbersome laws and procedures, doing away with inefficient regulations and redesigning the incentive system for the civil services can go a long way in reducing the levels of corruption, both real and perceived, in the ‘land of the pure’.
But even though Jamil Nasir presents some interesting ideas for reducing corruption, it still should be asked if corruption is actually the root cause of all of our problems.
Recently we looked at how corruption exists in the US and even in its government programs such as USAID. Yet the US does not suffer from suicide bombings and assassinations and load shedding and children studying under the open sky due to lack of a proper school room.
Yahya wrote last month about how not only the US but India also suffers from corruption, and yet they are experiencing economic growth. And it’s not just the US and India but China which is rapidly becoming the world’s largest economy next to America has corruption “ingrained in the system” according to a report in BBC.
“Since the relevant mechanisms and systems are still incomplete, corruption persists, with some cases even involving huge sums of money,” it says.
“The situation in combating corruption is still very serious, and the tasks are still abundant.”
Yet neither is China suffering from the maladies that continue to plague our country.
The truth is that the worst form of corruption in Pakistan is not economic or government officials but it is the intellectual corruption that has replaced serious discussion of our problems and the appropriate solutions. It is too easy to accuse someone as ‘corrupt’ without providing any evidence of corrupt acts. It is too easy to avoid responsibility for failing to produce solutions by simply blaming some nameless, faceless ‘corruption’ as the bogey man.
As the US, India, and China prove, economies can grow and improvements to governance made over time even while there is corruption – even at ‘serious’ levels. But no matter how clean are the books, there will never be investment in a place where industrial leaders do not know if they will be murdered in the street or blown up while at the market. Corruption should not be tolerated, and sensible solutions should be adopted to prevent corruption from taking place. But before any progress will be made, we must stop using ‘corruption’ as a convenient excuse for a lack of ideas.