A democratic government elected by public vote must work in the public interest is a platitude that hardly deserves mentioning. Instead of promoting the economic wellbeing of its citizens, protecting their life and property and providing them with an equitable system of justice, the government only works to entrench itself deeper in power. This is anything but democratic. Why does a sense of despondency pervade the air even though a government is elected by vote rules. A look of uncertainty about the future is palpable on the faces of the people, especially the lower rung of society. They have lost jobs when prices of essential commodities escalate beyond their reach. This segment of society is the worst sufferer. Oblivious of public disenchantment with the present state of affairs, the ruling elite keeps themselves busy in politicking and levelling allegations against one another. The show has gone on for more than three years and the yawning gap between the standard of living of the upper class and the downtrodden continues to widen by the day. Does this form of democracy serve the interests of the people or that of the plutocracy? How to remedy the worsening economic situation of the lower segment of the society. An appealing discussion on the subject recently comes to mind. An eminent economist, Dr Kaiser Bengali, argued that we, as a nation, live beyond our means. For example, if we earn Rs50, we spend Rs100, to put it simply. The differential is bridged by borrowing from international loaning agencies and its impact is transferred downward through indirect taxation. It may not pinch the rich as much as it squeezes the lower and middle classes of society. People have to share the burden of the loan through indirect taxes and levies imposed on petrol, gas and electricity. Rarely has any politician shown any concern about the galloping population, which will certainly gobble up whatever economic progress the country makes. Our government is top-heavy; Dr Bengali pointed out and suggested that at least 15 divisions of civil bureaucracy could be abolished without affecting the functioning of the administration. His most convincing argument, however, was to rejuvenate the railway system and transport cargo by train instead of depending on the road transport system. Cargo transport through trucking consumes petrol and diesel that we import by paying huge sums in precious foreign exchange. While talking about railways, one recalls nostalgic train journeys of much comfort and enjoyment. During the sixties and seventies, the trains arrived at the precise time. Sometimes fast trains like the Khyber Mail and Tezgam arrived before their scheduled time and had to wait on the outer signal of the station for the precise time to park by the platform. It’s unheard of now. We are to blame ourselves for messing up a perfect train system that once existed. However, farsighted leaders who hold national interests paramount, think and plan ahead of time. In our case, many serious issues are not even discussed. For instance, rarely has any politician shown any concern about the galloping population. This raging storm will certainly gobble up whatever economic progress the country makes. Population grows in geometrical progression. It multiplies quicker than one could imagine. Haven’t all our cities expanded to a level hard to manage by the relevant civic bodies. Politicians avoid taking stringent measures against the burgeoning population for three possible reasons. First, they might consider it as interference in nature’s scheme of things, which means adding more heads to the existing ones. Second, they might invite the displeasure of clergy, because men of religion believe in “more the merrier.” Third, there’s no incentive for self-aggrandisement in this venture. Because whatever drastic measures are taken to control the population, the results would take years to surface. And politicians are always in a hurry. Moreover, successive governments during their respective tenures dithered about taking the tough decision to privatise loss-making organisations (PIA, Pakistan Steel Mills and other SMEs) fearing loss of popularity among the affected groups of people. Instead of privatising the loss-making entities to cut losses and save public tax money, stopgap arrangements were made to turn them profitable. One such tried, tested and failed method is to install new faces in the top management of the entities. It essentially means to benefit the gents belonging to the elite club of top retirees of the country. The loss-making continued unabated. People must wonder how to tell democracy from oligarchy. The writer is a Lahore-based columnist and can be reached at pinecity @gmail.com.