By unilaterally abolishing the self-finance seats the government has once again shown that to a politician winning votes matters more than the longer term prosperity of the country. The free market pushes the businesses in a direction that brings in the most profit by best satisfying the needs of the customers. When politicians take charge of decision making they also behave in a manner that will bring in the most profit to them. In case of the politician though the profit comes in the form of more votes. Considering the short term nature of the tenure of most politicians, the decisions taken as expected are also short term and hap hazard. Lets analyze a recent decision unilaterally taken by the chief minister of the Punjab:
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has ‘abolished’ self-finance status of 76 medical and dental seats reserved for foreign students of 40 friendly countries and ordered the health department to convert them into open merit seats for the overseas Pakistanis only.
Instead of the friendly non-Pakistanis, the foreign Pakistani students get the extra seats and on merit, and at subsidized costs. Unlike the seats reserved for the rich spoiled kids, the seats on merit can go to the deserved person, not to those who can just buy they way in. Justice at last has prevailed in the land of milk and honey.
Lets have a look at some other effects that are not so visible but may still be important in other ways. The first thing to note is the loss of revenue to the medical and dental schools. This revenue far exceeded what the subsidized local rate allows the schools to collect. With the loss of this external resource of self paying students there is less funding available. Lets for a moment think what would have happened with the extra money coming in. Would it maybe have increased the quality of the labs, allowed the funding to buy new equipment, run more air conditioner to allow a better quality of life. Perhaps allowed the universities to offer scholarships? The list can go on but I believe you get the point.
Would it maybe have increased the quality of the labs, bought new equipment, or something else while costing the government nothing.
With government stopping that inflow of funds from self-finance students, the government ends up holding the bill. It takes on debt, increases taxation, or prints money leading to inflation. All the outcomes with the government controlling the seats end up being worse for Pakistanis. With universities becoming lucrative, maybe more would have opened to attract potential foreign students. All this cycle of improvement would have lifted the standard of even the weaker universities in Pakistan.
Free market reforms lead to betterment in the long run. It may seem painful to let those few seats to outsiders, but their money brings in all kinds of improvements to the universities. It also brings in those who think and behave differently, allowing Pakistanis to experience how those who are not Pakistanis think and why so. It opens up dialogue, breaks down barriers and stereotypes. Pakistanis are always complaining about the foreign media not portraying them accurately, and showing too much of bad while showing too little of good. Well then, there was a chance for Pakistanis to change minds without the help of media, with on the ground person to person contact.
There are some complaints against self-finance seats. A common complaint would go something like this:
Converting self finance seats (which are generally taken by rich) and converting them to open merit seats, is that a controversy too? Wow. Do these foreign nationals serve Pakistan after graduation?
The above objection sounds reasonable until one asks the question as to why do these foreigners need to ‘serve’ Pakistan? Did they not pay their way through university? Are they slaves to Pakistan that after graduation they also need to serve a sentence? This mindset that the people owe something to a collective group is what the socialists and communists were preaching and we can readily see what happened to those countries praising hymns to socialism and communism.
Pakistan will grow the fastest when people are free to do as they please as long as they don’t harm others. The creative and innovative juices that have helped any kind of development in the world will come to the fore here. As long as people are forced to keep serving they’ll not only be doing a substandard job of it, but they’ll also be miserable at doing it. Both parties, including the doctor and the patient, suffer as a result. This arrangement with a lack of incentives is one of the root causes of the failure of socialist policies. We need to open our eyes and minds to what is not so obvious when we let the politicians control our destinies by making decisions that have more hype to them than economic soundness.
And how do we make the politicians do the right thing? Here’s a quick answer from the great Milton Friedman: