LAHORE: Prominent economist Dr Kaiser Bengali has suggested that the government cut non-combat spending by the armed forces instead of seeking a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to pay off the country’s debt installments, which is already “bankrupt”.
Dr Bengali, who also heads the Political Reforms Unit (PRU) at the Office of the Chief Minister of Balochistan, said this when responding to a question asked by a reporter during the third Asma Jahangir 2021 conference at a local hotel on Sunday. .
He said 60% of the country’s total budget goes to the armed forces under the pretext of “defense”, which is unreasonable for a country like Pakistan as we are already borrowing greenbacks from other countries to pay off our debts.
This practice is no longer justified. If I can conceive, I will say that I am not talking about combat expenses because I don’t know much about defense, what weapons or bullets should we buy, but I am certainly good at talking about non-expenses, he would have declared the audience.
Continuing his argument, the economist claimed that there are three cantonments from Lahore to Peshawar on the national roads which are 10 kilometers from each other every 40 kilometers on average. “All of these cantonments were built by the British when there was a danger of Russian invasion from there. Now we are friendly regimes with Moscow and we don’t need any of these cantonments except two or three, while the rest have to go. Reduce these expenses, ”he advised.
He said every country in the world has a coast guard who protects their coasts in “peacetime”. “However, Pakistan has coast guards and a maritime security agency. Two organizations bring the same work. Thus, non-combat expenses can be reduced by 80% or even zero, ”he added.
Bengali recalled that there had recently been the case of a club that they (the armed forces) had built near Lake Rawal and that the expenses incurred for its swimming pool amounted to approximately Rs 500 million. In Lahore, he added, there is an army museum near the airport and I don’t know how much cost was spent on it and how much it helped us liberate Kashmir and us protect Indians or whatever.
He said the problem is that there are two Pakistans – the elite Pakistan has a completely different view of this country, they are very happy. “We have to build one Pakistan, where everything has to be for everyone. “
Meanwhile, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics Vice-Chancellor Nadeem-ul-Haque, who joined the conference by video link, accused Dr Kaiser Bengali and other speakers of following the narrative of “donors” by speaking out against respectable institutions.
When Khurram Hussain, the moderator, stepped in and tried to calm the situation down, Haque then logged out, leaving the audience in a sticky situation.
Earlier, Punjab’s former finance minister Dr Ayesha Ghaus Pasha, while explaining to participants about macroeconomics and the reasons why the pak rupee has fallen sharply recently, said that it likes it or not, but now it is is the reality that Pakistan has become a food importing country.
“It is catastrophic that the Pakistani country which was once known as the granary of the subcontinent is now importing wheat, edible oil, sugar and other essential food products,” she regretted. “Let me tell you, the government only borrows money to run its business, but almost 40% of defense spending is covered by these loans as well. Ali Hasanain, Associate Professor of Economics at LUMS, also spoke.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021