NationalVOLUME 15 ISSUE # 15

PM’s frustration

Prime Minister Imran Khan has expressed his displeasure over his ministers for their failure or lack of interest in implementing government policies. He also blames an inefficient and corrupt system for his failure to provide relief to the common people, which critics say is an open admission of his poor performance on all fronts.

He has vented out his frustration with the system and ministers on many occasions recently. He was annoyed after relevant ministries and ministers failed to implement his repeated orders to take effective measure to reduce prices of essentials. Presiding over a meeting on the energy and petroleum sector, he observed, “The common man would not be made to bear the brunt of an inefficient and corrupt system which is not delivering.” Addressing a public gathering, he expressed his annoyance at the “unprofessional” conduct of his cabinet members, who are creating more trouble for the government than the opposition. “Sometimes the opposition doesn’t even need to do something against the government as the ministers’ performance is sufficient to land the government in trouble. When the opposition does nothing, some minister makes such a statement that it becomes difficult to handle,” he was quoted as saying during a meeting with his party’s social media team. “Some ministers of my cabinet spend more time in the Kohsar Market than in their offices,” he lamented.

Critics say it is an open admission of his failure to run the affairs of his party and government. He has come to power on the promise to change the system. He waged a long struggle against his entrenched political rivals and he was supposed to be fully aware of the weaknesses of the system and how to remove them. It is disheartening for the people of the country to hear him mere complain against the system and not make an effort to change it. He could have at least changed his ministers who he thinks are not delivering.

His critics and opposition parties remind him of his election promises. His major election promise was to cut prices. Instead, prices of all essentials have almost doubled after the rupee devaluation against the dollar and hikes in electricity and gas tariff. Medicine rates have increased by 15pc on paper, but they cost much more than it. The government’s policies have badly hurt the common people.

The opposition accuses him of taking U-turns on every election promise. The poor economy is called his biggest blunder after Pakistan’s currency lost 35pc of its value in one year of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government. Imran Khan is taunted for reneging on his promise to fix Pakistan’s economy without taking foreign loans while his government has broken all previous records by borrowing $16b in just one year, the highest ever external borrowing in any fiscal year since Pakistan’s creation in 1947. Like the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the PTI government also relied on short-term foreign commercial loans. The PML-N had added Rs15 trillion to public debt and liabilities in five years, while the PTI increased total debt and liabilities by Rs11 trillion in one year. More than 80pc loan was piled up by the PTI in one year in comparison with five years of the PML-N. The public debt and liabilities stood at Rs29 trillion on June 2018, which peaked to Rs40 trillion on June 30, 2019.

In recent weeks, Prime Minister Imran Khan has constantly referred to the mounting problems his government is facing. The prime minister is reportedly not happy with his ministers after they failed to implement reforms in their departments and provide relief to the common man. In September last year, the Prime Minister’s Office had also issued a “red letter” to 27 ministries for a “critical delay” in the tasks assigned to them. The letter — which was viewed as a final warning and an expression of displeasure — was issued to the secretaries of 27 federal ministries out of a total of 34 ministries. Through the letter, the ministries/divisions had been directed to complete the tasks they had been assigned and submit a compliance report to the premier. According to the red letter, the departments had earlier been given 30 days to complete certain tasks. Initially, a “yellow letter” was issued to the ministries on August 17, noting that half of the time that they were given for completion of the tasks had elapsed.

Imran Khan also blames mafias in the country for obstructing and creating trouble for his government. He may be right to some extent but he cannot absolve himself and his government of bad governance and inefficiency. He should have come to power with better preparedness when he already knew he had to face such hurdles.

It is a fact that past governments failed to make structural changes and improve governance but the PTI government cannot blame them now. Consequences of all blunders, mismanagement and inaction of the past governments lie on the table of Prime Minister Imran Khan and he has no option of failure. The situation is not easy to handle. The government is finding it difficult even to foot debt servicing and necessary expenditure and funds for public welfare look impossible at the moment.

He has promised to make Pakistan a modern welfare state. The government will have to take harsh measure for years for it. Modern welfare states have gained the status after hard work of centuries and Pakistan will need decades to reach the destination. It will be a great achievement of the government if the people even start feeling that the country has been put on the path to become a welfare state.