Wheels within wheels

The Punjab Chief Minister has resurrected past schemes that failed at the cost of millions to the exchequer.

Zahrah Nasir August 02, 2011

The protesting sound of cogs creaking and groaning under the stress of stirring Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shabaz Sharif’s grey matter into motion is clearly audible, yet he really hasn’t done anything aside from resurrecting past schemes that failed.

Take the much trumpeted announcement of another yellow cab scheme — the vehicles are supposedly to be distributed amongst the needy to generate employment. The ‘needy’, it goes without saying, is liable to include a sizeable percentage of people who ‘need’ nothing other than to be hung, drawn and quartered for misdemeanours too numerous to mention. These miscreants aside, those identified as being really needy and unemployed will not have the car of their dreams simply handed over on a silver platter, they will have to cough up cash in return, plus, possibly, bribe money too. Then there is the question of who is going to utilise these cabs: Hopping in and out of cabs is a luxury many people can no longer afford and, as existing cab drivers are screaming at reduced incomes due to lack of customers, there is the distinct possibility that if another 20,000 of these cabs arrive, none of the drivers will be able to make a living, let alone pay off loans incurred on purchasing the damned things. They could, in effect, end up worse off than they currently are.

The ever so brilliant chief minister claims that a sum of Rs4.5 billion has been earmarked for getting the questionable cab scheme off the ground and also that an unspecified amount will be made available in loan form, to assist unemployed youth create work and this, one has to admit, does have merit but would have even more if the aforementioned Rs4.5 billion was added to the kitty and the unnecessary cab scheme consigned to the scrap heap of previous experience.

There is also the resurrected Green Tractor scheme: An entire million of the fuel-guzzling monsters to be unleashed on the already suffering farming community of the province, who do most certainly require help, although not necessarily in tractor form. They need a guaranteed supply of non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) certified seed stock and other necessary inputs, along with rescue from middlemen who ceaselessly ensure that farm profits continue to shrink at an alarming rate. They also require to be introduced to new crops, especially those able to cope with the stresses of ongoing climate change and to be educated in sustainable methods of farming and water usage. These items being far more important than the introduction of another million tractors with which to churn up and further deplete the land. There is also the fact that seems to have completely passed the unemployment fighting chief minister by, that the introduction of another million tractors could put at least three million manual labourers out of work which should automatically qualify them to fight over the allocation of a mere 20,000 cabs.

Lastly, there is the issue of luring farmers even more into debt by encouraging them, once more with government assistance, to invest in solar powered tube well technology of Chinese invention and manufacture. Solar power is a sensible and clean source of sustainable energy, but why we are importing expensive technology when we have long owned a government department specialising in developing solar powered thingamajigs of our own? Could it be that those — there are many of them — so gainfully employed there are not doing their jobs?

Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2011.


Meekal Ahmed | 12 years ago | Reply


Let me tell you how it "failed" and its consequences.

The last time, with no financing, Pakistan used its own foreign exchange to buy the yellow cabs. As row after row of these yellow cabs filled Karachi port, our foreign exchange reserves started to deplete rapidly. At that point, someone should have gone to NS and asked him to stop this expensive, childish nonsense. No one did and in short order we ran out of foreign exchange and went scurrying off to the IMF for a bail-out!

It must have been the first in the history of the IMF that a country had a balance of payments crisis because of importing too many yellow cabs.

Later, when asked, NS said he was providing "employment". No one told him the cost per job was excessive and all in foreign exchange. There were/are better ways to create jobs at lower per person cost.

Thank God his government fell. No one knew what he would come up with next!

It should be obvious that all those yellow cab loans became non-performing assets. It will happen again.

Frank | 12 years ago | Reply

The protesting sound of cogs creaking and groaning under the stress of stirring Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shabaz Sharif’s grey matter into motion is clearly audible, yet he really hasn’t done anything aside from resurrecting past schemes that failed.

'Failed' in which sense? The author severely underestimates Shahbaz Sharif who unlike his older brother is a very intelligent man. The previous yellow cab scheme effectively gifted free taxis to members of the lower middle class in Punjab who to this day remain grateful. The Sharifs, of course, also made a tonne of money out of it themselves, and nobody begrudged them this. So lots of good will, votes and moolah: in which sense then was the previous yellow cab scheme a failure, from the point of view of the Sharifs, I mean?

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