The Chai Party Manifesto of Pakistan
The recent rise of the TEA Party in the US has made me realise how important alternative voices are within main stream politics. The fact that a bunch of people who were angry at government policies started a protest movement that eventually became a viable political force in elections is an amazing achievement. It made me wonder why we don’t have something like that in Pakistan. Rather than whining and crying over the stupidity of our rulers, why not put forward an alternative agenda?
I present to you, the Chai Party Manifesto: simple things that need to be done on an urgent basis.
The priority list is made up of the demands every Pakistani has of their government.
We want jobs
Regardless of what we are told by the media and politicians, our biggest problem for now is unemployment. If one thinks rationally, an economy that is trying to create jobs is automatically trying to increase its domestic consumption, thereby eventually aiming to increase its domestic production. As of now, the amount of unemployment we face is ridiculous and will worsen with thousands more entering the work force every year.
How do we put them to work? Well, to start out, we should get rid of the National Internship Program (NIP) because it is inefficient and is run by the government, who needs to cut its spending. Moving the NIP into private hands would be a more feasible option. Rather than paying interns to work in government placements, the private sector can accommodate as many interns as possible and give private sector firms a rebate on their taxes against the amount of people they place within their firms. This way, students get job experience with real firms which may later help them in their careers and it breeds an environment of competition. It also helps develop our human resource with on-the-job training and learning opportunities.
In addition to this, the interest rates need to be slashed for the corporate sector so they have an opportunity to invest in their expansion. This would also allow young entrepreneurs to get loans to work on start up ideas. This may not fix the unemployment issue, but will go a long way to curtail it.
Quality education, not degree mills
Till we have quality education in our schools and universities we are not going to progress as a nation. Education right now is much better then what it used to be, but then again it is still not as good as it should be and we need to get out of the culture of mediocrity. Standardisation of education has been tried at various levels, and has worked out in some cases. The focus should move from that to actually encouraging a culture of learning and sharing of knowledge.
Currently, what we have is a race to acquire a degree which might eventually get the student to a job. What we need is for that student to actually acquire knowledge and learn so that they understand the world around them in a better manner. This would require broad-based education rather than specific; every student should go through a common first year at university where they study everything from business to sociology and even philosophy. The idea is to open up minds the first year so that they understand different views of things and issues, so when the time comes they can think for themselves and look at one problem from multiple angles. If the government cannot provide this, the private sector surely can. To make them do achieve this, we need our students demanding more from their teachers than just lecture notes and power point presentations. Private sector education providers respond to demand, and as long as this is demanded they will do what it takes to supply it.
A comprehensive health care system
With a country of over 170 million people, we need to have a comprehensive health care plan. The target should be children under the age of 15, so they are provided health care coverage. Every year, millions of dollars in aid money are spent on studying the impacts of mother and child health. That money should be spent on building hospitals and improving salaries of trainee doctors.
The government spends millions of rupees training doctors at government-run universities in Pakistan and many of these doctors then leave the country to find jobs elsewhere. To prevent this, the government should require each student at a government-run university to enter an agreement that binds them to work in Pakistan for a minimum of three years after they graduate.
Lower, more rational taxes
In Pakistan we need to have a mature conversation on the tax issue. The government should stop playing politics over the Reformed General Sales Tax (RGST) and focus on increasing the tax net. The first step would be to actually lower the taxes, including income tax and corporate tax. Step two would be to lower indirect taxation such as RGST and Excise Duties.
If the government wants to raise money, they should focus on the volume of people paying their taxes instead of bleeding the people dry with indirect taxation. We tend to forget that most slabs in the income tax do not hit the poorer part of our society as hard as they hit the upper classes. But indirect taxation does not differentiate between the rich and the poor. Why should our upper classes get away with paying low direct taxes? Exempting those who make less than Rs500,000 per annum and doubling income tax on people making more than Rs2.4 million per annum should be the first move. The government will still get its revenue but this time it will come from those who should be paying for it instead of the poor.
Invest in infrastructure
Infrastructure investment is vital to Pakistan’s growth, and is being neglected badly. Whatever happened to building the other parts of the Motorway project? It was supposed to reach Karachi, not just stop at Lahore. It’s a project that eases the traffic on our roads and provides Pakistan with a long term logistical solution for growing demand.
Why are we paying for expensive rental power plants? Why are we not investing the same amount of money on building power plants that can improve our energy supplies and ensure energy for the next decade? We need to build our power plants and tap their energy for ourselves instead of paying someone to rent us a power plant. We did not become a nuclear power because it “sounded cool” at the time; we became a nuclear power so we could use that technology for civilian purposes as well. We should be demanding nuclear power plants and their technology from our allies instead of seeking money to buy diesel. We deserve to demand things that we need for our people and nuclear power is one of them.
Development and growth should be pursued across the country and not just in specific pockets. God knows, we have been doing the pocket/cluster/region growth thing for a while, and it has not turned out well for us. It is our right to demand social justice that is going to come through equitable growth. We cannot continue to give an aid package to provinces within our country that have been ignored for years, because that way we are creating minorities. We do not need to give hand outs, we need to supply tools to develop neglected areas and regions so they are at par with the rest of the country. One-time packages are not going to cut it anymore, long term investment in infrastructure that can foster development is the only genuine way it is going to work..
Our leaders seem too busy with their petty arguments and politicking, so it is up to us to remind them what we want from them and maybe even tell them how they can go about it. If a bunch of angry Americans can make waves across 50 states and eventually get into Congress, why can’t we? The Chai Party Manifesto outlines what we need and how we should go about it. I welcome your thoughts and views on this because it is up to us to bring about a social change.
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