Enem Ali Abbas
Enem Ali Abbas is a freelance journalist. Former Media Advisor for World Bank and UNICEF funded projects in Punjab. He tweets @EAAgop
A decade ago, this side of the world – where over two hundred and ten million people reside, the country which is considered to be of great strategic importance because of its geographical presence – realised equal opportunity is essential in collective prosperity. This was only realised when students flocked into business universities to learn the art of management.
One of the many lessons that these graduates had learnt included “equal opportunity for all”. This paved the way for women management aspirants, although it had started long ago when MNCs operating in Pakistan recruited people regardless of their gender. This had a trickle-down effect too, to which local firms/employers adapted a little later but now women have become part and parcel of major businesses. You would encounter women in organisations that are progressive and smart, so is their output.
It is fortunate that business houses/industries/organisations realised their potential and their right to contribute, they successfully proved themselves by going hand in hand with their male counterparts. This was one of the flatteners that Pakistan went through after the start of the current century.
As the previous century was concluding, the world was experience a unique flattening phase as Thomas L Friedman writes in “The World is Flat.” From the world is round to the world is flat, he made all the logical points to prove that, prosperity lies in the flattening of the world, which means creating a level-playing field for everybody regardless of any discrimination. He explained how Indians had already started inching towards progress back in 1990s.
One of the key flattener over there was the advent of internet and maximum utilisation of fibre optics in which Americans invested and Indians progressed. The internet bubble made crowdsourcing, insourcing, supply-chaining, off-shoring and just everything so viable that, almost twenty years ago Indians in Bangalore were filing tax returns for Americans sitting in New York. As West started to shift tedious tasks to what they thought was a backward country, so it could focus on innovation and research, Indians not only improved their tech industry but also came forward to help in research and development. For Indians, securing a job in America is not a big dream anymore, they are working with tech companies including Google, Yahoo, IBM and you name it, right from their homes or offices in Delhi. India has become their weakness in IT industry.
On the other hand, these flatteners reached China and Japan also, from a conservative Chinese business industry, the country has ventured into an era of Shenzhen speed. They broke down bureaucratic barriers and have become a superpower in production sector.
Pakistan had many lessons to learn from but we skipped, government never worked on IT universities per se, we took no lesson from Wal-Mart’s supply chain, no lesson from crowdsourcing, no lesson from the world with barrier-free opportunities.
However, the real flattener is finally here and it is in the shape of Punjab Local Government Bill 2019. Now, if we take off the tinted glasses of our conditioned prejudices, we shall come across a system that’s favourable for the people, that’s pro public finally.
During the earlier system, for everything bad the chief executive of the province was held accountable, which although makes sense but it brushes the burden off of the shoulders of local administrators? It was system’s inability to give away authority to the local bodies, although it’s ideal to give away authority which comes with a complementary item i.e. responsibility.
In the current bill, smaller units shall be established, which means governance would be manageable. Under the act, 22,000 village councils are to be established, where there will be direct elections. This vertical channel shall not only bring forward generation that’s younger and more energetic, in politics. One finest example of this is Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he was elected as the Mayor of Istanbul back in 1994 and today, he is one of the strongest presidents in the Muslim world, who dares to question Israel’s atrocities in Palestine on all forums.
This division of power in vertical and horizontal units shall actually put governance back on track and in the long run, overall economy shall benefit from the system. The reliance of local bodies for economic welfare in Turkey is a valid argument, now that Erdogan’s AK party has lost its influence in some of the major cities in during 2019 local government elections, reliance of political strength on the system is directly proportional.
Under the new Local Government Act, 40 billion rupees shall be funnelled directly down towards village counsellors; this means no political influence shall affect the prosperity of any unit. In the past, MPAs of sitting governments tried taking revenge from the villagers who had voted against them in elections. They didn’t want to invest for the development of respective villages and rather concentrated the development where they had voting majority. However, this was checked by constituting committees, MPAs were not allowed to do whatever pleases them but with the introduction of this new system, every village shall have a person to hold accountable, a leader responsible to channelize growth, development and funds.
On the other hand, cities shall have an elected mayor backed by a cabinet of his own. From keeping a city clean to school systems, the local government shall be made accessible, responsible and active in the best public interest. In total, 140 billion rupees shall be transferred to local governments, meaning that the money shan’t concentrate into a few hands and the people who are affectees today shall be empowered with authority to make progress happen together, as a joint venture.
However, the success of this model depends on matters relating to tax collection, which ultimately shall make the local governments independent and divide fiscal burdens. Else, the distribution shall continue to become a financial liability unable to get rid of.