Towards a successful state

The change we are chasing, the revolution we are dreaming of, needs state functions to work seamlessly for people.

Marvi Memon February 22, 2011

As Libya joins Egypt, there is continued talk of revolution and a need for change in Pakistan — ironically, from all those sitting in the power corridors. Whilst traditional politicians might want change to increase their power, the new breed of politicians and the populace want change because they feel Pakistan has a dysfunctional democracy. A democracy where rules are not followed. It is clear that if rules were followed, there would be wealth creation, development and justice for all. It seems that all this hue and cry is for a semblance of functionality of an existing parliamentary democracy versus an overthrow of the same.

Amidst the day-to-day protests and power games of traditional politicians, we are losing sight of the bigger picture. Whilst there is much talk of revolution, there is not enough talk on what needs fixing and how. There needs to be a clear realisation of which state functions need immediate improvement in order to get Pakistan out of the failed states list. These have been eloquently listed by the authors of Fixing Failed States, Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart. The book says that lawmaking is a crucial function of the state. The more clear, transparent and equal the rules are, the better the governance will be. The more internationally tuned the rules, the more globally acceptable the state. The second is that the state needs to establish legitimate control over the use of violence. The third is that administrative control needs to be managed by government professionals who are accountable to the citizenry and recruited transparently.

Sound management of public finances, through which efficient collection and allocation of resources among contending priorities is done, is also a requirement. Another point stresses on the importance of investment in human capital, terming it the key towards the formation of a middle class. The sixth point states that creation of citizenship rights through social policies is critical to stability and prosperity. Citizens must have mutual rights and obligations. Another point adds that provision of adequate infrastructure services is necessary, especially to avoid spatial inequalities and areas of exclusion. Market integration is only possible when infrastructure is seamless. The book also stresses on the formation of markets and the creation of an enabling environment for the market. It says further that management of public assets should be utilised for the collective good as opposed to benefitting only a handful of people. Another factor is that effective public borrowing and not extending public borrowing limits is an important indicator of fiscal strength, domestically and internationally.

When Pakistan can manage all the above tasks in an efficient and coordinated way, then the failed state status can be avoided and the sovereignty gap filled. The change that we are chasing, the revolution that we are dreaming of, needs for all these state functions to work seamlessly for the people. The fix-it team needs to just get this list right in order to deliver a developed Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2011.


AnIndian | 10 years ago | Reply @Arsalan "ground realities". What about Feudalism in rural Punjab? Do you know that more than 80% of the land still belongs to a tiny fraction of the people? What about the deprivation of a major percentage of the rural people which is the root cause of stagnation of growth and retardation of middle class booming? To suggest that "lack of land reforms" is a minor issue and Pakistan can somehow get away with not doing land reforms is simultaneous ignorance and bigotry. "Snide". Seriously pal, you got to use a dictionary. If an Indian mocks at Pakistan getting US aid or it being a failure state, I would indeed call it derogatory. If you cannot distinguish between a constructive criticism and a slander - you either lack comprehension or possess poor knowledge or probably both. Re-read and point out to me where there is the slightest implication of "exclusivity". It's people like you supporting a non-sincere, non-dedicated, non-committed government and politicians who are one of the root cause of Pakistan's suffering. Sorry I forgot to mention this earlier. About "humility" - do a reality check bro and get back. You did be none the wiser. And, you just gave a testimonial to prove that we south Asians have a severe inclination to "talk about problems" and not "solving".
Arsalan J. Sheikh | 10 years ago | Reply Bravo. Well said Marvi. @anindian: Snide Indian comments that don't recognize ground realities are not helpful. A minority of MNAs in Pakistan are now feudal lords. Feudalism today is only dominant in Rural Sindh and Balochistan. The things you listed would all help, but to suggest that they are exclusively what's needed, and hence to rubbish the ideas of the author is hubris of the highest order. You have still a lot to learn about both Pakistan, and true humility.
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