Economy Pakistan

The Escalating Class Oppression

By Lal Khan

As a creeping price hike increases the financial burdens on an already impoverished and deprived populace the ruling classes and their imperialist bosses are all praise for the present regime comprising the country’s most dominant section of capitalists. Inspite the deafening proclamations of controlling inflation, the reality for ordinary people is in direct contrast with inflation at 5.5 percent this year and the escalating prices of food items. The July inflation rose primarily because of increase in prices of food items. The food inflation steeply increased to 4.7%, up from June’s 2.3%. Tomato showed an alarming 92% hike last month, followed by about 30% increase in prices of fresh vegetables. Prices of potato increased almost 18%.

On a year-on-year basis, gas prices increased by up to 10 percent, water supply charges by 9% and the shock of exorbitant electricity bills has become a regular trauma for the ordinary users. The toiling classes and the poor end up spending the bulk of their incomes on food intake while for the upper strata this expenditure is mere small change. Inspite of the low oil prices not only that the regime has benefited by taxing them further but this fall in hydrocarbons prices had minimal effects on the budgets and the lives of the ordinary people of Pakistan. With merciless privatisations, health and education are becoming increasingly unaffordable for the bulk of the population.

On a macro level, the economic reality is not as rosy as is being painted by this regime and their economic experts. The massive national debt and balance of payments is alarming to say the least. According to the official report of the state bank of Pakistan, “The federal government borrowed an unprecedented Rs2.1 trillion in the last fiscal year increasing national debt from Rs16.96 trillion to Rs19.1 trillion by the end of the 2015-16 fiscal year.” This is the highest-ever amount added into the debt pile of the country in a single year by any government. Paradoxically during the last 30 years, hundreds of private companies have got their bank loans –exceeding Rs50 million – waived while only in the last three years of the incumbent government, banks have written off loans of more than Rs280 billion. Irrespective whether Pakistani regimes were military or so-called “democratic” continued on the path of pampering the ruling elite and carried through policies of aggressive neoliberal economics blatantly crushing the workers and the poor of this land socially and financially. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar confessed that some 400 corporate enterprises had got their loans worth trillions written off in the last 30 years. The state and the political governments are only there to accumulate finance capital by begging, stealing or whatever means it can resort to and then shower it on the favoured sections of the ruling class through loans write-offs and tax exemptions. The whole burden of the foreign and domestic loans is shifted to the working classes. It’s the comprador bourgeois that has become more and more corrupt due to its economic failures and is dependent on state and political power to keep up its rates of profit, obscene luxury and social stature. It glaringly lays bare the class bias of the political rulers and the bourgeois state. Miniscule loans of the ordinary people strangle them for life.

The subservience of these crony capitalist politicians to imperialist interests and foreign corporate capital is even more pathetic. Apart from the shameful concessions to foreign corporate firms the privatisation like that of the telecommunications giant, PTCL is graphic evidence. The $800 million owed by the Dubai-based Etisalat, buyer of the PTCL are not mentioned in 2016-17 budget books, suggesting the government may have foregone the debt in favour of the Dubai-based buyer. In July 2005, Etisalat bought 26% shares in PTCL with management control at a price of $2.6 billion. After getting leaks from its paid agents in the finance bureaucracy that the second lowest bid was actually $1.4 billion only, the UAE-based firm backtracked from the offer. But it still owes 800 million dollars from the reduced rate. The story of the plunder in the IPPs and other sectors privatised and investments by the imperialist corporations is a continuum of the successive regimes policies.

On the other hand the failure of the ‘national bourgeois’ to develop the economy and create a modern industrialised society has led to the criminalisation of the economy, society and politics and institutions of the state. The so-called informal or the black economy has ballooned from about five percent in 1978 at the advent of Zia ul Haq’s vicious military dictatorship to about seventy three percent of Pakistan’s total economy today. It is like a ferociously malignant tumour and that has metastasised and grown even larger than Pakistan’s total economy. It seems that the bourgeois experts have capitulated and adopted this menace and are now trying to integrate this black economy into the mainstream due to the failure of the formal economy to develop a healthy capitalism that could have sustained the existent state and the society.Now huge concessions have been granted to the property tycoons to “whiten” more than $9 billion dollars of black capital without any state control or oversight and providing a free reign to these extortion marketers to loot and plunder.

This cruel saga of plunder and economic exploitation continues in a situation of acute and worsening the socioeconomic suffering of the teeming millions. The rich are becoming richer and the poor, even poorer. The privatisation leading to deprivation of health and education necessary for human existence ultimately becomes a crime against civilisation. Almost all mainstream parties at the helm of the political pyramid subscribe to these inhuman economic doctrines. The masses are in a state of apathy and alienation. There is a generalised revulsion towards politics as a whole amongst the masses. The present political and the state elite are considering this to be a permanent feature. That’s their faulty comprehension from the philosophy of their class; empiricism and a mechanical approach that they will have to pay dearly for in the stormy events that impend. This is a rapidly changing society seething with discontent and detestation of the capitalist system.

The movement might be in a temporary phase of inertia but the simmering revolt below the surface is very much palpable. The present political haranguing in this orgy of plunder by the elite, is in the last analysis a distraction and hindrance to the eruption of the mass movement. The concentration of the so-called civil society on secondary issues ends up undermining the real issues denigrating and tormenting the lives of the oppressed and the society. It adds to the political gimmickry of the elite that has failed to solve any of the real burning issues afflicting ordinary people. But it is also a fact that this elite and its system that is strangling and oppressing Pakistan’s society cannot solve any of the basic issues even if they wanted to. It becomes a crime against the people to create illusions of reforming a system that is forced to brutalise class oppression every passing day for its own survival. For the survival of the oppressed classes, this socioeconomic system has to be transformed. Nothing less than a socialist revolution, can accomplish this historic task.