OPINION: Squandering Five Billion Dollars Of Our “Little House On The Prairie”

Posted on Posted inOpinion

IRSHAD SALIM (Dec 22, 2018) — The PPP-led Sindh government is ‘missing records of Rs300 billion’, said Prime Minister’s Special Assistant for Political Affairs Naeemul Haq on a TV Talk Show Friday.

“The Auditor General’s report for 2016-17 says that out of Rs600 billion allocated to the Sindh government, the government does not have expenditure records for Rs300 billion. They have squandered that money,” he alleged.

He also claimed similar reports for Punjab during the tenure of PML-N led government in the province. “The same report says that Punjab squandered around Rs250 billion. These are not our reports. They exist from the previous regime.”

If that’s all true, it’s disturbing to the hilt for a country whose prime minister and team have been making phone calls to friendly countries for immediate assistance.

In US dollars, the total amount (Rs550 billion) in question is a whopping number. How big? President Trump has been head over heels with the Congress for $5 billion to build the wall on US-Mexico border. Yes, at an average rate of Rs110 to a dollar during the last 5 years (2013-2017), the “squandered and unaccounted money” equals $5 billion.

What could this $5 billion have done then or could have done now and going forward? Lots of giveaways and takeaways both on federal and provincial level. Trump would still need another $15 billion to $20 billion. But that’s another story for another day.

In Pakistan:

1. We could have built several seaports, airports, power plants, clean drinking facilities, anti-pollution initiatives, schools, colleges, and universities, etc.—all without having to take foreign loans, grants or aid, and subsequently enhanced our sovereign assets.

2. We could also have used the monies progressively to pay interests and loan tranches–built up like a Lego skyscraper during  the last 10 years–and reduced our debt incrementally.

3. Alternatively, we could have jump-started Pakistan Steel, PIA et al, or invested in the Dams Fund.

4. If all of the above were unattractive–not fast enough to buy vote to power–this whopping figure invested rightfully may have brought the two major parties—PPP and PML-N in power again, one after the other just as in musical chair.

Lastly, for many other things, we would still need Credit Cards, but one thing such monies can’t buy is national esteem and national self-respect. Many foreign leaders have openly and quietly said quite a bit about how they have been looking at bad things here. It isn’t just Imran Khan, the judiciary, NAB, et al asking questions. The whole nation is. They have the right to know,

Thus came accountability naturally. It’s a work in progress. Not much money needed though, but a giant leap of faith moving forward is our Little House On the Prairie.

This house Jinnah built to galvanize national values, esteem and self-respect, somethings some of our leaders–even Modi has auctioned away.

(The writer is a business & construction consultant, analyst, and Editor-in-Chief of PKonweb and DesPardes presently based in Islamabad)

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