The loan lie linkage
By now the loan lie linkage is a familiar pattern. You tell lies to take loans. You take loans and then tell lies on how things will get better. You misappropriate loans and tell yet more lies on why things did not get better. For a country that never tires of proclaiming its holiness, its honour, its dignity and its great importance in the eyes of the world (specially the imaginary Ummah), to so zealously borrow and beg money is absolutely bizarre and crazy. But this has gone on, this is going on and this will go on – unless we STOP taking loans.
The ordinary people of Pakistan need to understand the pathology of the slimy loan mafia, eternally borrowing and begging, only to create yet more poverty, misery and underdevelopment. We need to know as to why are our leaders so infatuated with loans? Why has our government been reduced to such endemic inefficiency that it can not bat an eyelid without a world bank loan? Who are the real beneficiaries of this scam, and who are the real victims of this fraud?
But first some facts to see where we stand and where we are headed. In 1999 Pakistan’s total external debt was $37.8 billion. Having paid some $27 billion as debt servicing over these six years, we are still under just about the same level of debt in 2005 i.e $36.62 billion. The debt burden does not seem to be coming down as our leaders unabashedly keep on dashing to New York and Paris to negotiate yet newer loans. There is little to explain as to why they took an additional loan of $2.1 billion only in the past 12 months. After all the ordinary people, on whose name the loans are taken and who must ultimately cough up the payment would always be around to pay. Only the loan takers would have disappeared into their well stocked residences in foreign lands.
Let us examine how this shady game is played. There are four major players. The foreign lending institutes (WB, IMF, ADB etc.), the foreign consultants, the Pakistani begging bureaucrats and the Pakistani ‘word processing’ consultants. Interestingly all four players are on the same side, jointly plundering an invisible and already demoralized team (common public), which is forbidden to even appear on the play ground. There being no challenge from the opposing team, the game smoothly comes to an end, when all the four players have encashed their share of the booty, in an amicably agreed ratio.
The lie-loan–lie linkage begins when a delegation from Islamabad lands in a foreign capital, well equipped with a shining new begging bowl, a well rehearsed tale of misery and how a loan could alter the destiny of Pakistan. (a scene very similar to the one that one comes across daily at each traffic light.) Interestingly, except for the dress every thing else including the dialogues are identical.
The loan-giver responds by playing hard-to-get and setting some reasonable and many unreasonable conditions. There is then a requirement to provide a report that describes the purpose of this loan. This is a highly specialized task, as the author must choose a combination of the most profound and high-sounding words to describe something completely elusive, obscure and incomprehensible. Let us take a few real-life (real loan) cases of such fraudulent etymology.
“The size of the direct target population is sufficiently large to form a critical mass so that it can perform a catalytic role and leverage benefits to the indirect beneficiaries of this project. The focus of the proposed project is on sustainability through maximization of investment in staff training/education, using a combination of foreign (declining importance over the project disbursement period) and domestic (increasing role over project life) educational and training institutions. Strength of CSR is hinged on the fact that while economic and financial reforms may develop in response to largely external pressures, however, the viability of serious CSR depends on mobilizing and harnessing national will, energy and creativity.” (a current world bank assisted public sector capacity building project for Federal Public service Commission of Pakistan. http://www.fpsc.gov.pk/) One may ask why the Federal Public Service Commission cannot revamp its own assessment process and needs a World Bank loan to do so.
Let us look at another masterpiece.
“To design and administer assessment mechanisms to establish administrative infrastructure and capacity for assessment administration, analysis and report writing, and to increase stakeholder knowledge and acceptance of assessment.” (http://www.worldbank.org.pk/ A World bank assisted loan for education.) Interestingly after every one had a great time with this World Bank loan, the honourable education minister announced that 5000 primary schools had been shut down in Sindh for want of teachers.
Here is another gem of intentional vagueness and ambiguity.
“ Improved local government representation, accountability, service delivery and poverty reduction through fiscal restructuring to support reforms in policy, legal, technical and fiscal domains.”
(www.adb.org/documents/profiles/LOANS.) A wishy-washy ADB poverty alleviation project, whose only end result was yet more inefficient services and still poorer people.
The unkindest cut of all was the $330 million ADB loan (www.adb.org/documents/profiles/LOANS.) for Access to Justice Program. One can imagine the failure of this program by the level of (in)justice that we provide to the innumerable Mukhtaran Mai’s of this country. It took us three years to barely decide if her rapists should be arrested or released – leave aside providing any justice.
Pakistan today has enough foreign exchange resources to gradually pay off its loans. But this is not likely to happen because of our irresistible addiction for yet more loans. We now want to do nothing, not even our day’s routine job, unless sponsored by a World Bank loan. Each time we take a loan, the bureaucrats and the consultants get richer, the service for which the loan was taken more inefficient and the masses still poorer. There must be an end to this blatant plunder. The Supreme Court of Pakistan should take a ‘suo moto’ notice to forbid taking foreign loans. The government must be asked to make public the details of each loan taken since past ten years. Every government has been taking loans on behalf of the people, blowing up the money and disappearing from the scene. A generation has endured its fathers bonded to brick kiln owners. Must it also see its children mortgaged to monetary funds.