|Of the 184 member countries of the IMF, Pakistan's rate of economic growth is second only to China.
The rate of growth in our Large Scale Manufacturing (LSM) is at a 30-year high. Construction activity is at a 17-year high.
Tax receipts are the highest they have ever been. Consumption of electricity and the production of cement are both at a record high. Insurance premiums are at a record high, and at the Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) Pakistanis are registering new companies at a rate that they have never done before.
Just what does it all mean? It means that more Pakistanis now own their own homes than ever before. It means that more Pakistanis now own cars than ever before. It also means that more Pakistanis now own motorcycles than ever before. This all simply means that Pakistan is richer now than ever before.
It's true that rich Pakistanis are getting richer but an average Pakistani is also doing better today than ever before. If owning a car is the definition of being "rich" then here is the raw data: In 1999, Pakistanis could only afford to buy a total of 32,461 locally assembled cars. The latest annual figure stands at 115,000. Currently, there are 1.3 million cars on Pakistani roads as opposed to 815,000 cars some five years ago; a 60 percent jump in car ownership.
It's true that the "trickle-down-affect" of the massive new wealth being generated is yet to make any meaningful dent in overall poverty. But, if "leaving poverty behind" means owning a motorcycle then here is the raw data: In 1999, a total of 94,881 new motorcycles were sold in Pakistan. In 2005, Pakistanis are going to buy -- or lease -- some 500,000 new motorcycles. What that means is that a half million Pakistanis have "left poverty behind".
Look at mobile telephony, for instance. Over the past five years the number of Pakistanis owning mobile phones has gone up from 306,000 to 10.4 million (as of April 2005). Etisalat, UAE's telecom giant, is depositing a colossal $2.59 billion into our treasury for a 26 percent in PTCL. Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is getting $291 million each from Telenor, Warid, Paktel and Mobilink.
The last time I looked at the figure, Pakistan's private sector had borrowed a wholesome Rs325 billion -- a historical record in itself.
Pakistan's private sector is borrowing to buy industrial machinery, import capital goods, finance automobiles, buy motorcycles, tractors, buy houses, get advance salaries, undertake renovations, buy televisions, computers, refrigerators, microwave ovens, refrigerators, deep freezers, DVD players and vacuum cleaners. At 58, Pakistan is shinning like never before.
So, the economy is robust and Pakistanis are richer now than ever before but what about democracy?
To begin with, democracy is not a predefined destination of some sort.
To be certain, democracy is an ongoing process whereby, over the passage of time, every sovereign entity becomes either less or more democratic. Isn't the real essence of democracy to increase the standard of living of the masses?
Consider the Local Government Election 2005, for instance. It's true that power in Pakistan remains highly centralised but grass-root democracy is doing at least some of the things that democracy is meant to be doing.
It's true that we don't have enough schools and that we don't have enough health clinics. But, where there are public schools teachers don't show up to teach and where there are public health clinics doctors don't show up to treat.
On August 23, The New York Times ran "Local politics in Pakistan offers hope for democracy".
Qaim Din Khan is up for re-election for the coveted post of nazim. In his previous tenure, Qaim Din was given the equivalent of $3,500 in development funds.
Qaim Din had three choices: One, enrich private pockets with public funds. Two, use the funds to buy patronage. Three, spend the money in order to improve the delivery of public services to his constituents.
Qaim Din spent the development funds on paving 40 streets in his area and installed 10 new transformers. Qaim Din faces three challengers all of whom are promising to pave even more streets and install even more transformers. Electoral accountability seems hard at work.
The Times concludes that "pressured by nazims, government doctors and teachers are now more likely to be at their posts. Drugs are also available more often in public health clinics."
Our economy is shinning, democracy is not. We need to sustain the economic growth for at least another decade while, at the same time, working even harder on the democracy part.
Source: Jang / The News