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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 12/25/10

Fool's Paradise?

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I have been following various news items online in which a renowned Pakistani economist at the United Nation's Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), has been asserting that the panacea of Pakistan's development challenge and the key towards ending our country's poverty is by "getting ahead of the curve and riding the waves of upcoming Green Economy Initiative (GEI)."

I am wondering which country's air he has been breathing over the past 2-3 years or even one year for that matter. It certainly cannot be the air of this fair country called Pakistan where many of our textile mills in Faisalabad have been either going out of business or remain closed 3 out of seven days on account of load shedding, gas shedding"where only today the drying up of sugar cane (ganna) in the fields was making headline news since sugar mills were also either shut down or going out of business"where the number of billboards in major cities are primarily those of cellular companies or painted with huge "Advertise Here" slogans"where our government is more busy making and breaking coalitions and lining their own pockets as much and as quickly as they can. What kind of waves are we supposed to ride?

The GEI is certainly the new "buzz word" in the environmental and donor circles just as gender, poverty reduction and climate change have been thanks to donors over the past decades but to simply suggest that this is what we need to do is not enough especially when our country, unlike other South Asian countries especially India lacks even the very basic, fundamental modern industrial infrastructure? Can our government give any kind of subsidies and tax breaks when it is busy borrowing billions of rupees from the State Bank every single day?

I have to agree with Dr. Nadeem ul Haque, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission that our economy has become "donor driven" and certainly not "trade driven." It is frankly through the generosity of God and of course the International Monetary Fund, Asian Development Bank and World Bank, (to name just a few international financial institutions) that we have so far managed to remain afloat.

The main question is and forever will be "HOW?" How do we make the all important crucial transition towards once again at least becoming a "developing country?" Because from where I stand there is very little (if any) "development" going on in our poor country, let alone it being "sustainable" or "green" development. Whatever our forefathers had managed to build, our corrupt governments, military dictators or occasional natural disasters have taken away from this land.

There is no denying that there is hope. There is always hope. But in order to "anticipate what the solution is and be ahead of that solution, not behind the solution," as advised by the UNDESA expert, we as a nation, especially our talented, innovative youth, need to take giant leaps and bounds ahead and be committed to real change that comes not from our masters in the West nor from NGO donor reports---rather real change from below. Because ultimately, lets face it, many of us might somehow through our education, status, connections or money be able to escape the challenges of surviving on a less than a dollar a day income, but it will be these people"the real poor and destitute who wipe our windshields, build our houses, clean our toilets and grow our food, who make the soil of this country so fertile, fragrant and rich.

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Aneel Salman, a Fulbright Scholar, holds a PhD in Economics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. His current areas of research include public policy, institutional governance, climate change and the Pak Afghan security nexus. He (more...)
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