Public Policy in Pakistan: Captive, Exclusionary, Extractionary

‘Pakistan is trapped in a vicious circle, which is now a threat to Pakistan’s national security. Exclusionary politics must be laid to rest. Extractionary institutions must be laid to rest.’

By DR. FARRUKH SALEEM — Less than one percent of Pakistanis live in DHA, KDA, Gulberg, CDA and Bahria Town. Less than one percent of Pakistanis are members of gymkhanas, golf clubs, country clubs and the Islamabad Club. Of all the 1,174 MNAs, MPAs and senators around 50 percent are from 450 families.

Facts: Around 84 percent of the Pakistani population does not have access to safe drinking water. Why? At least 55 percent of Pakistani children are anaemic. Why? Around 44 percent of Pakistani children suffer from stunted growth. Why? At least 33 percent of Pakistani children are iron-deficient. Why? Of the 131 districts, 80 districts suffer from food insecurity. Why? More than 40 million Pakistanis defecate openly. Why?

Answer: Public policies determine the “distribution of costs and benefits in an economy”. To be certain, policymaking in Pakistan exclusively serves those who live in DHA, KDA, Gulberg, CDA and Bahria Town. Policymaking in Pakistan exclusively serves Pakistanis who are members of gymkhanas, golf clubs, country clubs and the Islamabad Club. Policymaking in Pakistan exclusively serves the 450 families and the 1,174 MNAs, MPAs and senators.

Result: Pakistan is “experiencing widening income gaps, with a concentration of wealth in the hands of a small number of individuals”. Yes, “this is likely to further facilitate privileged groups’ access to decision-makers and exacerbate the risk of policy capture”. Yes, that means “low levels of trust in government”. Yes, the government’s credibility and its democratic legitimacy are both at stake. And yes, that means the radicalisation of large segments of the population.

Public policy in Pakistan has been captured by less than one percent of Pakistanis who live in DHA, KDA, Gulberg, CDA and Bahria Town. Public policy in Pakistan has been captured by less than one percent of Pakistanis who are members of gymkhanas, golf clubs, country clubs and the Islamabad Club. Public policy in Pakistan has been captured by 450 Pakistani families who populate the National Assembly, the provincial assemblies and the Senate.

A captured public policy leads to gross “misallocation of public and private resources, resulting in rent-seeking activities and diminished allocative and productive efficiency”. In Pakistan, a captured public policy has meant five things. First, high levels of poverty. Second, massive under-investment in the health sector. Third, massive under-investment in the education sector. Fourth, massive over-investment in infrastructure. Fifth, the failure of the state to provide basic services – water, electricity and justice.

A captured public policy is a “vicious circle” as “capture perpetuates social and economic inequalities. Benefits obtained through capture enable the interest group to reinvest in further influence-seeking and maintain and expand its wealth and power.”

A captured public policy in Pakistan has meant two things: exclusionary politics and extractionary institutions. That 50 percent of all parliamentarians are from 450 families is exclusionary politics. Captured institutions – including the SBP, the SECP, the Competition Commission of Pakistan, Nepra, Ogra, the Drug Regulatory Authority, Pemra and the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority – extract from 99 percent of the population to enrich the less than one percent who live in DHA, KDA, Gulberg, CDA and Bahria Town.

To be sure, Pakistan is trapped in a vicious circle, which is now a threat to Pakistan’s national security. Exclusionary politics must be laid to rest. Extractionary institutions must be laid to rest.

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect PKonweb’s editorial policy.

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