IRSHAD SALIM — Last summer, I did a quick (over a white envelop) positive (+) and negative (-) relationalism, and its impact on Pakistan. Since then, not much difference appears on the impact despite “changing faces of Pakistan”. It seeks “enduring stability in region” and have been using “peace overtures” as currency. This has been working somewhat but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
However, I’m no geo-strategist or geo-analyst, but have taken an analytical approach my Grandma style to look at things –she used to draw parallels –why I shouldn’t play marbles on the street or fly a kite and insist on knowing the neighborhood well. Smile and don’t engage in any arguments, she would say. “Some people won’t change”, she would say and stuff Rs1 into my right pocket for a “gulab jamun” or “toffee”.
So when someone asked me why I did not point out our nation’s defense cost per soldier with rest of the countries in our recent insight on the upcoming budget, I remembered my grandma’s words, and did a “time & motion” study. Found she was always right.
Here are few reasons I consider:
- In my opinion, it is not prudent to use same derivatives across the board, such as : weightage related to defending territory and defending foreign policy which also do not have equal weightages between between themselves. Advanced nations under pressure versus emerging and terror-hit nations under pressure.
- Example: An advanced nation not defending its territory (it takes war overseas) as much as it is defending its foreign policy priorities overseas.
- And a country “X” which is A) defending its territory, B) balancing moves in territorial disputes, etc. C) and prepared to face war within its territory and D) at the same time defend its relationships in the neighborhood and wider region.
- Despite #3, non-defense expenses (4A) of “X” increases and there were no incremental increase in revenues, traditional or new (4B) to offset the differences, it makes the situation hamstrung. At this point, comparing an index derived from the strengths of an advanced nation to measure strengths and weaknesses of “X” would rather highlight this: guys reduce your non-defense expenses and create additional avenues of revenues. This hasn’t happened.
- So any increase in defense cost due to #3 while 4A and 4B remained stagnant, considering the delta would mean that continual abdication of performance over the years in #4A and #4B is okay and will be okay. Not so in reality, nor the defense spending index remain relevant.
- An apple with orange comparison on per capita or per soldier basis becomes academic. Grandma never did that.
Based on #3 and 4A, 4B, the per capita cost of defense per Pakistani soldier (wrong to do so) should have been or could have been more. Therefore, using SIPRI as benchmark and deducing cost per soldier is a deterministically wrong and a patently non-analytical exercise.
Here’s a scenario to consider: The percentage of food an average we Pakistanis spend annually out of our disposable household income remains highest in the region. And at the same time, stunting and malnutrition on average remain highest in the region. Both are performance related to 4A and 4B though.
Shouldn’t it be lesser if binary numbers mean anything? In my opinion, no. There are many sips between the cup and the lip (variables, determinants, etc.).
We have been taking sips (loans, taxes, etc.), but the community of leadership hardly thought of doing something great with 4A and 4B which are very strong among advanced nations. A path of least resistance (POLR) was followed: ship the nation overseas and make the rest line up in the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) que.
A HERES A WHAT IF SCENARIO (with due apology grandma):
What if Russia or China parks north or south of USA and makes friends with some nations east or west of USA — and all having common borders with the US. Would America’s defense budget be measurable in binary terms? In my opinion no. They would increase revenue stream first and in most likelihood increase defense also. Revenue is generated through employments, self-employments, small businesses (all documented). They don’t have BISP nor run their economy on remittances, and neither Malaysia or Turkey — two great nations we have been looking up to.
They, however, don’t do this (graphic below), to the best of my knowledge and information (exceptions don’t count). Hats off unknown illustrator. You are my hero.
The writer is a business consultant, analyst and Editor/Publisher of DesPardes. He’s based in Islamabad.