Refreshing talk. Let’s see the action

Where The Acorn supports a Musharraf plan

Ironically, after saying that Pakistan’s policies must not be ‘India-centric’, Gen Musharraf announced that Pakistan should attempt to achieve an economic edge over India. Despite the irony, such talk is welcome, and will be wonderful if he really means it.

“In today’s era it is not the weapon superiority that makes the country strong but strong economy and prosperity of the people that contribute to making the nation strong.”

Therefore, he added, the government would not indulge in any arms race with India but would achieve an edge over India by gaining economic superiority. “It is knowledge which will take us ahead and raise Pakistan’s statue (sic) in the eyes of the world comity,” the president said.

In order to achieve economic superiority, the president said, the government would focus its budget spending on education and science and in this regard a budget of Rs 20 billion had been earmarked for higher education sector…He added they were also sensitive to the requirements for attaining scientific superiority in various disciplines.

Musharraf said in order to make Pakistan stronger in all frontiers they would also be conquering the space frontiers with the help of their close friend China. [The News]

But this is Musharraf after all, and those acting in the belief that he will follow through on his statements stand to be sorely disappointed.

12 thoughts on “Refreshing talk. Let’s see the action”

  1. He said this in the context of sending a Pakistani astronaut to space in a Chinese vessel. Wonder if the economic superiority/scientific superiority thing was all a set-up to defend the rationale for that.

  2. Was wondering if the space comment meant he’d get more missiles, thanks for clarifying that up.

    Maybe we should tell him that our government is ready to fund sending a lot of them (Pakis) to space – starting with JuD/LeT/(latest avatar) and its salafi, deobandi, etc., brothers.

    Of course, I presume that means they dont have a REV onboard the rockets.

  3. Nitin: Pervez Hood(wink)bhoy had written an entire book about what passes as “Koranic Science” these days in the Higher Education Commission. The Army/Airforce runs its own schools/colleges for the children of its cadets without caring for the society at large. Prolly, it will start running IT cos as well.

    Prasanna: They already get all the missiles they want – this venture will probably send a Paki Goat up in the air in a chinese vessel.

    Maybe we should tell him that our government is ready to fund sending a lot of them (Pakis) to space – starting with JuD/LeT/(latest avatar

    three cheers to that.

    best,

  4. Honestly, given that Pakistan appears to have gotten at least semi-serious about economic reform over the past couple of years, and that the UPA has given the Marxists over all but the most incremental reforms, it wouldn’t surprise me if Pakistan’s GDP growth is higher than India’s over the next few years – just as it was last year.

  5. Eric, the difference is whether a 3 billion$ donation is just a blip on the economy or a vital part of it. Its economy is about a tenth or lesser size compared to ours.

  6. CN,

    The Pakistanis never have enough missiles. Remember how the NYT and others made such wonderful cases for them having more weapons?

  7. Prasanna, the $3 billion in aid is spread out over five years, so you’re actually looking at $600m. For a country with a GDP of $92 billion (about 1/8 the size of India’s), it’s not inconsequential, but there’s more to the story than just that. Witness the way that Pakistan privatized its state-owned phone company last year; does anyone think that India will be able to do something similar to BSNL while the UPA is in power?

  8. Eric,

    I think the privatisation of the phone company demonstrates the extent that Pakistan had to go. The main bidders were from UAE, China, Singapore and Malaysia. The UAE telcos bid was twice as big as the second higher bidder, which made it rethink and back out. Musharraf and Shaukat Aziz had to personally plead with the UAE government to get this going. They eventually settled for a compromise where Etisalat will pay the government over a very long term. Before that, they had to get the army out to arrest the PTCL union leaders and use military signalmen to man the exchanges. Well, yes, that shows commitment on the part of the government; but I think many investors would be unwilling to buy companies under such circumstances.

    I think that it will be excellent for everyone on the subcontinent if Pakistan shifts its rivalry to a productive competition in the economic sphere. But I do not think Pakistan will be able to sustain its economic performance for long if it does not open up its economy to India. The Indian states immediately bordering Pakistan are much bigger markets that those on its Western borders and those across the Arabian sea put together. There is still no sign of Pakistan abandoning its ‘Kashmir first’ policy. Despite Musharraf’s recent pronouncements, the prospects of this changing are bleak.

  9. Pakistan is in a race to see whether it can get it’s act together before it implodes under it’s own contradictions. To Eric’s point of higher growth: sure, they can crow about higher growth for a year or two. I won’t even split hairs about aid-assisted and free-oil-from-Saudi growth. But can they sustain it? They lack a basic system of governance. Their judiciary is a joke. And they are feudal to the max. In fact the economy is dominated by under 100 families. They could be the keiretsu, but they’re more likely modern-day plunderers.

  10. Nitin, thanks for the background info on the deal. It does look like the deal happened under some rather shady circumstances; but I think the broader point is that the government pushed ahead with it even though it was far from easy politically. There is a certain amount of seriousness among the Pakistani establishment to liberalize the economy right now – perhaps not as much as there should be, but more than there is within the UPA.

    At the same time, I think both you and libertarian are right in saying that there are factors that put Pakistan at a disadvantage relative such as India, such as a higher degree of feudalism, a weaker judiciary, and an unwillingness to open up its markets to India at a time when Pakistan needs India more than vice versa (though I think neither side comes out well when it comes to basic governance). I think you could also add India’s superior education system and established IT/BPO base as relative strengths. Yet when I think about how much India’s growth is hamstrung by the unwillingness of its government to implement a handful of reforms (privatizing SOEs, removing FDI limits, reforming the IDA, reducing import tariffs to international levels) that don’t require much effort or ingenuity to carry out, only political willpower, it’s still not hard to see Pakistan posting higher GDP growth over the near-term if its government has the wherewithal to at least partially go ahead with similar actions.

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