Solution to ‘our identity crisis lies in economic welfare’

Inequality has become the major issue contributing to differences among people

Sumaiya Kamani December 09, 2018

KARACHI: Provision of economic welfare is imperative to overcoming the current prevalent identity crisis in Pakistan.

People have several regional and cultural identities and disagreement within the country, said Adviser to the Prime Minister on Institutional Reforms and Austerity, Dr Ishrat Husain.

Speaking at 'ThinkFest IBA' event on Saturday, he said the elite class has made assets and property for themselves, which has kept the rural class from gaining access to education, health, water and other basic facilities. Inequality has become the major issue, which is contributing to differences among people and the government needs to overcome this identity crisis through delivering equal opportunities to all.

"The rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer and then we ask why Balochistan has increasing insurgencies. It is injustice and we need equal opportunities for all," Husain stressed.

Citing an example of India, he said the country had deep frictions when the citizens identified themselves based on the region they belonged to like Madrasi, Uttarprash, Bengal etc.

‘Far right ideologies overtaking the West’

As the economy progressed and people started to benefit from opportunities provided by the state, they started identifying themselves as Indians, he added. "If we don't get opportunities equally, we can't overcome identity crises and we'll keep fighting and criticising each other," Husain remarked. We have many prevailing versions of Islam, followed by different sects, yet we take Islam's name, but do not preach what Islam teaches us.

According to Dr Husain, a study conducted in George Washington University assessed countries on the basis of Islamic attributes and the country that topped the charts was Japan, whereas all Islamic states, including Pakistan, lagged behind.

Talking about the denial of many facilities to GilgitBaltistan (G-B), he said G-B should also be brought under the discourse of equal opportunities and facilities, be it as a province or any other administrative structure.

He said, "We have made commission and we have a report on it, the cabinet will analyse and give decision on it. We are analysing if they can be given facilities." "We can bring tourism in G-B, through which people could earn their livelihood," he added.

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What successful welfare state model looks like

Welfare state has many models. Nordic countries including Sweden, Norway and Denmark have successful models, which have freedom in private sectors to create wealth. 50% of their income is taken by the state to provide free eduation, health and many other services available from the rich to the poor, said Dr Husain.

Whereas, he said, Pakistan has a strangulated and overregulated structure. We have overtaxed private sector as we have 41 types of taxes in Pakistan imposed on different departments, which becomes a reason for tax evasion.

Talking about the multidimensional poverty, including access to education health drinkable water, he said 54% of the population is below poverty, whereas in urban areas it is only 18%.  Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore have only 5-6%. Whereas, in Mastung, Kohistan, Musakhel it is around 94-95%.

“This tells us that we have tightened the noose around the private sector, which has made the structure inefficient.”


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