LAHORE: Businessmen and the state are playing to the gallery in the current pandemic arranging photo sessions even twice for some paltry donation, while the state is using public interest issues to divert their attention from government failures in handling the crisis.
Pakistan, like the entire world is facing the severest challenge in its history. We need government to focus its hundred percent on minimising the impact of the health crises that has crippled the economy and thrown millions of people out of work.
The state in this regard is playing to the gallery arranging press conferences on the latest situation and what arrangements were being made to treat people. Experts, who are supposed to work day and night on pandemic control and facilitate the poor, sit at press briefings for hours.
They must be spending some time on the presentation that each has to make for the brief. This could easily be done as a daily press brief, so experts concentrate on the work they are supposed to do.
Pandemic is not Pakistan specific. The entire world has been affected by it. But do we see the chief executive of any country or their experts consuming so much time on press briefings and in the process praising each other’s work?
Most countries that tackled the crisis better than Pakistan did so because their leaders and experts were burning their night oil on the issue and not going for photo sessions. It is agreed that Pakistan needs lot of resources to provide relief to the people affected economically because of this crisis. The amount we actually need can run up to billions of rupees.
At such an hour, is it worthwhile for our leaders to sit in telethons for hours to collect at the most a billion rupees per telethon? They should consume their time more constructively. The government should squeeze all unnecessary expenditure to generate at least Rs100 billion. This can be achieved with concentrated efforts.
These telethons have provided opportunity to businessmen to come into national limelight. They announce the donation on telephone and are applauded by the entire government team present at the telethon.
Then they visit the Prime Minister House where they personally hand over the cheque of their donation. There is a photo session and TV coverage that is aired nationwide by numerous channels.
Why do the businessmen waste their time and that of prime minister for publicity purpose? The cheque could have been sent through courier service. The FPCCI too has been part of this drive. First it announced a donation at one telethon, and later a cheque was delivered by its president and other office bearers to the prime minister.
Another interesting point to note is that businessmen are paying Rs10 million each to the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) to get a hall or room named after them or their dear ones. In this huge crisis faced by daily wagers and those that lost jobs, the presidents of FPCCI and LCCI have given 10 million each to the chamber and have two halls in the chamber named after their late fathers. Former LCCI president Farooq Iftikhar has resented and condemned this wastage of money at a time when the poor and the workers were starving.
It is worth noting that the two gentlemen who got halls named after their fathers have regularly been appealing to the government to expedite soft loans for trade and industry so they could pay salaries to their workers.
Another interesting development worth noting is that this government, while ignoring the shortcomings of some sectors for over 19 months has started giving attention to the deemed corrupt practices in sugar, energy and wheat sectors.
It may be a coincidence, but these investigations accelerated after the new coronavirus started spreading the country. The news about the pandemic has gone in the background and the sugar report is the main subject of discussion in the media.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases have crossed 51,000 and related deaths have reached 1,071. The number of affected persons and deaths are creating new records. The crisis might soon become unmanageable if dedicated attention is not paid by the government, which means working on ground instead of media.
As the euphoria about the opening of markets has subsided, traders are saying that despite crowds, their sales a few days before Eid were only 25 percent this year. It is obvious that consumers do not have resources, as a majority of them are jobless and those who are still employed are holding on to cash for uncertain times.