Walk the walk

In South Asia on 1. March 2011 at 23:05

With recent public uprising in the Middle East and North Africa and with the toppling of two dictators, several governments, several thousands of civilian deaths and the possible risk of destabilization in oil producing countries there have been insecurity in the marked which led to increased crude oil prices world over.

Last week saw the Brent Crude Index up as much as 116 dollar per barrel. It was a direct reaction to the uprising in Libya where anti-Gaddafi forces had managed to take control of eastern parts of the country. In addition the unrest in Bahrain and the risk of another proxy war in between Iran and Saudi Arabia in the gulf increased the uncertainty in the market. It helped a little when the ailing Saudi King Abdullah returned home after a medical trip to USA and promised to stabilize the oil prices by increasing Saudi output with additional 700.000 barrels. But with the increased tension in Yemen the Crude prices again jumped up this week. While Saudi stock exchange experienced a bloody day the first of March.

European markets and petrol pumps felt immediately the increase in oil prices and it is noted the level of petrol and diesel prices in being to that of pre-financial crisis level. The developing countries naturally felt the increasing prices even more as they are much more vulnerable to price fluctuation. Not surprisingly did also Pakistan feel the price increase. The government was left with no other option than to increase the petrol prices with 9,9 percent. The following reaction is a tradition in Pakistan:

The major opposition parties, led by the business friendly PML-N, the Gujrati based of what is left of PML-Q, and the coalition party yet with no ministerial portfolios MQM staged a walkout in protest against the increased fuel prices. Pakistani TV show hosts all nodded increasingly to the anti-government guests who ranted about a deliberate governmental policy to increase prices in order to fill their own pockets. With some glimpses of angered masses in the major cities the public gets a story worth of selling. The TV host gets a satisfactory smile, the one-man party guest dreams of an electoral victory after delivering their noblest wishes for the nation and the Mullahs start screaming for more “Islam” as a solution to the oil inflation.

But would all these actors, especially the political parties’ do anything differently than what the governmental Zardari-Bhutto dynasty led Pakistan People’s Party did?

Damned if they did. Pakistan produces roughly 60.000 barrels a day which might be sufficient for about 18 percent of the domestic market. The rest 82 percent of crude oil has to be imported from Middle East. In addition there seems to be no prospects in the Indus basin of other oil fields which could increase domestic production either. All indexes show that Pakistani economy is heavy dependent on oil from the Persian Gulf. And the sellers do not like to give away their products for free, when they can earn billions of dollars on it. After all, they have to pay salaries for the production workers, allocate funds for search operations and on top of it all end up with profit to pay for their royal luxury while the ordinary man struggles for a decent life.

So, when Brent Crude price increases, so does the oil being sold increase in value. Pakistan as a customer cannot decide the price; rather it has to pay up for its demand. The national budget is in a huge deficit while the sister country India and former colony Bangladesh is running up and high and even hosting the ICC World Cup. How can then the finance department subsidize petrol when it cannot even pay for its record high debt in right time? Even Iran, a major oil producing country had to cut the subsidies during the last half year in order to ease the pressure on the fiscal budget.

Should we just let it be then? Let the ordinary man take the bitter pill, while the privileged gets away with paying from kickback money?

We certainly would have to, as long as the parties rely heavily on lobbies, self interest, conspiration theories and power hunger.

With the constant paranoia of being a target of Indian aggression, and the focal point of a conspiring CIA-Mossad-RAW alliance, Pakistan have given the Military department free hands to pick and choose of what amount they like from the budgetary cake. Army officers are the first ones to receive their payment, while other governmental employees have to wait days for the payment to show up. The Army actually runs a state within a state. A state which demands huge quantity of money without any outflow back to the Pakistani treasure, with the exception of a constant threat of a Commando sitting in the presidential palace. In short, Pakistan needs to cut its military expenses. And at present, no political leader dares to even whisper such words to their own personal minds.

Peace with India is important. Pakistan is getting ruined and compared to conflict ridden countries in the African golden coast. If Pakistan cannot compromise (as India too has to do) to make the Line of Control a permanent border, then we should even forget that Pakistan ever existed in the short future. Our India centric forces should do their duty faithfully and fight the Taliban insurgency with full force. We do not need any strategic depth in Afghanistan, have we not done enough damage already to the poor country? Neither do we need to become an exporter of terrorism, even China and Iran complains about it, what neighbor is left out then?

Our political leaders know that they are the only hope for the country. Only politicians can manage this ship, no Mullah or General or any foreign dictation can do it. So please, walk the walk. Pakistan is in serious financial troubles. It needs to cut in all fields, yet it has to increase educational and health budgets, the future is in an educated and healthy youth. Political leaders should grow up, or rather grow some pairs of balls and start supporting difficult decisions, a consensus government will benefit the most to those who will stretch out the first hand.


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