Austerity measures, need of the hour September 12, 2008

Pakistan is sinking more and more into the fiscal deficit quagmire. Our expenses far exceed our income and there seems to be no viable economic program with the government to allay this disproportionate earning vs spending ratio. In view of the current alarming economic situation, emergency Austerity measures need to be implemented without loss of time, to arrest any further deterioration. Some of the measures that should be taken are outlined below :-

1. Ban the sale and use of all private vehicles above 1600 cc. The president, PM and all high ups including the armed forces chiefs should be made to comply with this restriction. The benefit is obvious. Besides the upfront saving on buying and running these vehicles, it will also put a check to the rat race in the society to compete in buying bigger and more expensive vehicles just to show off. Instead, aggressively encourage the usage of public transport (which presently is pathetic and almost non existent), by subsidising them and flooding the cities /country with them so that they render private vehicles redundant.

2. Ban the ownership and construction of houses on more than 800 yd plots. Again this will discourage people from spending money on big houses just to show off and perpetrate an unhealthy competition in the society. It may be pointed out that a house and a vehicle are the two most potent weapons of showing off a persons wealth and Pakistanis are most gullible in this respect. When these two wasteful pursuits are curbed, the rat race /corruption in the society would automatically be checked. Also with this restriction, people with extra money would invest it in productive pursuits like industries, services etc. instead of squandering it.

3. Remove all grossly misused side perks like free transportation, free electricity, free servants etc to government servants who are being given, and instead enhance the person’s salary in lieu of these perks. This will not only arrest the misuse and wastage of these perks but the compensatory cash in salary would be relatively much lesser burden on the exchequer and much more beneficial to the recipient.

Though the restrictions mentioned above may be hard to swallow for most of us, particularly for the powers that be (so difficult to give up bad habits!) but then, taking this bitter pill and personal sacrifice from our leaders is the only way to cure our illness. If China can put restriction on their people of bearing not more than one child to control the population (a direct challenge to basic human freedom), why can’t we put control on the size of houses and vehicles to put the nation on the track of austerity and thereby check our sinking economy.