Democracy, transparency and accountability – by Dr Farrukh Saleem

Transparency is the mother of democracy. Two things: first, there can’t be democracy without transparency. Second, democracy can’t allow the murder of her own mother. No government, therefore, is a democracy unless it ‘implements a set of policies and procedures that allow citizens to have accessibility and understandability’ of each and every entity within the government. A ‘democracy’ is not a democracy unless it guarantees organisational as well as social transparency. Organisational transparency, for instance, means that Pakistan Steel’s ‘activities must be shown consistent with regard to the society’s interests’. Social transparency, for instance, means that the focus of each and every activity of PIA should be its passengers –and citizens of Pakistan.

Accountability is the father of democracy. Two things: first, there can’t be democracy without accountability. Second, democracy can’t allow the murder of her own father. No government, therefore, is a democracy unless it implements political, administrative and market accountability. Under political accountability, every political actor – all politicians – must be held accountable by other organs of the state like parliament and judiciary. Under administrative accountability, all government servants – civil as well as military – must be held accountable. Under market accountability, the state must ensure that the market ‘provides convenience and choices to its citizens’.

Is our democracy transparent? Oil and Gas Regulatory Agency (OGRA) and Sui Southern (SSGCL) have a ‘special arrangement’ with a private entity whereby the private company buys LPG at Rs9 per kg and sells at Rs72 per kg. OGRA has been ordered by the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) to “review its policy and implement… ‘reasonable consumer price’ and is hereby directed to take necessary measures to ensure a level playing field….”

Are our democrats accountable? Pakistan Steel is “abusing its dominant position by refusing to deal with purchasers in relation to low carbon steel billets.” As a consequence, Pakistan Steel has lost a colossal Rs22 billion of public money. How about political accountability? Of the 41 sugar mills in Punjab at least 20 are owned by politicians. This year every man, woman and child in this country must cough out an additional Rs550 so that our sugar daddies can make an additional Rs80 billion; a billion per mill. How about market accountability? Our cement cartel has 21 members. On May 8, 2003, the cartel sat and hatched a scheme — all in writing — to rip off everyone who uses cement in this country. In 2008, the CCP took suo moto action. On August 27, 2009, the CCP imposed a penalty of Rs6.3 billion — equivalent to 7.5 per cent of the turnover. On September 4, 2009, the CCP chairman was served a termination notice.

How about social transparency? The PIA and Saudi Arabian Airlines colluded to rip off Hajjis by “unreasonably increasing the Hajj fare by more than 80 per cent as compared to the preceding year in violation” of Section 3(1) and Section 3(3) (a) of the Competition Ordinance. Our cartels have accumulated all the gold in the world while three out of four Pakistanis earn an equivalent of $2 a day and eat thistles. Democratic governments break cartels. Democratic governments support consumers. Our government is in love with cartels. We have an LPG cartel, a steel cartel, a sugar cartel, a cement cartel and a rental power cartel. Democracy is about transparency, accountability and responsibility. Accountability does not weaken democracy but does the exact opposite. Transparency does not weaken democracy but does the exact opposite. Isn’t our democracy more about public money, private greed?

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad.

Source: The News



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