Wednesday, February 6, 2008

New Deal: Food, Clothing And Shelter For All

Food, Clothing And Shelter For All
Pakistan Peoples Party has revived "Roti, Kapra Aur Makan For All", first successfully introduced by Late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the late 1960s as a popular slogan, and made it a part of its platform for the upcoming elections in Pakistan. These planks by the PPP elicit a range of reactions among Pakistanis ranging from strong enthusiasm to total skepticism. Among the poor and the dis-enfranchised, the desire and the need for food, clothing and shelter is so great that they receive the PPP manifesto with enthusiasm. The skeptics ,on the other hand, argue that "Roti, Kapra Aur Makan" is just an impractical slogan designed to win votes, with no sincerity or substance behind it.

Bhutto's Five E's
While explaining her party’s agenda to ensure equality in every segment of society, the assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto said in December 2007, that in line with the PPP’s slogan of “Roti, Kapra aur Makan”, her party would take specific policy initiatives. “Our policy is based on five E’s - employment, education, energy, environment and equality,” the former premier said.

US Experience
In the history of the United States, similar policy platforms have had mixed results. Looking back at the history of the political platforms that have succeeded, what comes to mind is the name of President Franklin Roosevelt and his "New Deal" , as well as the successive US Presidents' policies on "The American Dream" of home ownership for all. These policies helped reduce poverty and enhanced education and housing for a large number of people in the US.
Among the failures, US President Herbert Hoover's slogan "A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage" stands out. President Hoover's presidency ended in the Depression of the 1930s which was inherited by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Specific Programs
A quick examination of the successful policies for promoting better living standards shows that, in each case, there were specific programs launched in public-private partnerships. For example, the government worked with the private sector on jobs and training programs to enable people to make a decent living to provide for themselves and their families. An effective public schooling system with school breakfast and lunch program was funded. GI bill was passed to help the returning soldiers from WWII who wanted to go to college. Social Security Administration (SSA) was set up to provide safety net with food stamps and welfare payments for those who could not find employment or were disabled. Federal Housing Administration (FHA) was set up along with FNMA to provide affordable mortgages and the tax code was modified to provide income tax breaks for home owners to promote home ownership. In order for the PPP vision of "Roti, Kapra Aur Makan" to be realized, it is very important that this vision is backed by specific plans and programs with clear objectives and measurable results over a period of a decade or more. The question is: Where would the resources and expertise come from to make it happen?

"New Deal" For Pakistan
Seeing it in the context of the current global war on terror, it is in the best interest of the world to have the FDR style "New Deal" for the poverty-stricken, illiterate, unemployed youths in countries such as Pakistan to address the underlying causes of terrorism. For example, the "radical" madrassahs often accused of promoting terror, are currently providing food, clothing, shelter and education for many of these youths. In this role, the madrassahs are very influential. If Pakistan (with the help of the US, EU and the Saudis) can replace what the madrassahs are doing while teaching tolerance instead of hatred, then there is hope for a more moderate and enlightened Pakistan free from terror. I think this will be good bargain for all. It will cost a lot less than the war on terror and have more durable results than the current strategy. The stakes are very high for Pakistan, South Asia, the United States, Europe and the rest of the world. Let us all help turn the PPP slogan of "Roti, Kapra Aur Makan" into reality for the sake of the world peace and our future generations.

1 comment:

Hopewins said...

So, now that 5-years have passed since your wrote this article, and that the PPP's term is coming to an end... Can you do an UPDATE on this article?

How much has the PPP achieved? How many of their promises have they kept? Have the Pakistani society, the World, the International Community, the US et cetera helped at all?