The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government claims to have put the country on the right track in its first year in power and hopes people would start getting benefits from the second year of its term. However, the opposition sees worsening of all economic and social indicators and warns the next years would be even tougher.
It is a fact that the first year of the PTI government has been the hardest for the people of the country. Inflation has already hit five-year high. Prices of vegetables, fruits and meat have posted persistent increase in major urban centres. The government has increased prices of all petroleum products almost every month. Power and gas tariff have also been revised upward. The rupee has depreciated by 30pc against the dollar, which has skyrocketed prices of all essentials.
The first year of the government was quite difficult due to an economic crisis it inherited from the previous regime but the PTI claims to have laid the foundation of good governance and reforms. Launching its first year performance report, the government said it would announce a Rs900 billion development budget for the next year against Rs500b of the current year. The Pakistan Postal Service and National Highway Authority were success stories during the past year. The Housing Ministry launched the Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme to reduce housing shortage in the country. The government introduced the visa on arrival policy and new tourism policy to attract foreign tourists. Similarly, the Interior Ministry improved border security. It was a big success of the foreign ministry that for the first time in 50 years a UN session took place on the Kashmir issue despite India repeatedly calling for a veto, the report said.
According to the government, the Ehsaas welfare programme was also one of its major achievements. The Board of Investment approved establishment of the first special economic zone under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Rashakai, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, five zones in Punjab, two in Balochistan and one in Sindh. The government had allocated Rs12b to the agriculture sector as compared to just Rs1b during 2018-19 to ensure food security and bring about prosperity among small farmers.
The report said the Prime Minister’s Youth Skill Development Initiative and Kamyab Jawan Programme had been launched by allocating Rs10b to each initiative. The Ten Billion Tsunami Tree Plantation Programme was launched at a cost of Rs 7.5b to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change. A number of initiatives have been undertaken to reform the power sector and make it self-sustaining. The National Internal Security Committee and the National Intelligence Committee have been set up to assist the Interior Ministry in critical areas of internal security.
Online and electronic visa regime has been introduced for citizens of 175 countries to attract investors and tourists. The report also highlights achievements of the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination and steps to provide better health facilities to the people. According to the report, the benefit package for each enrolled family has been raised to Rs120,000 per year for secondary care treatment and premium amount increased to Rs 720,000 per family (previous Rs 600,000) per year for treatment of eight priority diseases.
Another major achievement listed by the government is the International Monetary Fund programme under which the government will receive $6b, which will support the balance of payment and strengthen the market confidence. Remittances sent by Pakistanis living abroad surpassed the target of $21.2b in 2019 as it increased by 9.68pc to $21.841b. Under the social protection programme, targeted poverty reduction interventions have been made through the Ehsaas programme, the BISP, Sehat Sahulat programme and expanding coverage of Waseela-i-Taleem programme.
According to the report, the scheme of five million houses will benefit 28 industries and generate sizeable employment. The Kamyab Jawan programme will provide Rs100b low-cost loans to youths to set up or expand business. The Pakistan Railways, through special initiatives, managed to generate an additional revenue of Rs10b that helped it reduce its annual deficit by Rs4b and absorb a Rs6b additional bill in respect of the increasing cost of fuel as well as the pay and pension bill.
Under the Education Ministry, the National Curriculum Council was reconstituted with key focus on developing a uniform national curriculum in three phases. The government held the groundbreaking ceremony of the Mohmand Dam project and released Rs17b to kickstart the project. A new phase was launched in relations with the United States based on convergent interests and better appreciation of Pakistan’s role in the region. The government also achieved positive re-engagement with Afghanistan at summit level and supported its peace process. It hopes to create 10 million jobs and ensure 7pc growth rate by 2023.
However, the opposition has been critical of the government’s performance. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) said all economic and social indicators had nosedived in the first year of the PTI government. It said the PTI’s performance was such a disaster that not a single minister, let alone the prime minister, showed up to present its report. Over 4.5 million people have been thrown below the poverty line while 1.5m lost jobs in one year, it claimed. According to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Pakistan has become more unsafe, unstable, economically vulnerable and internationally weak since last year’s general elections. Titled “One Year of Tabahi (destruction)”, its 112-page “white paper” declared that the first year of the “selected” government had witnessed destructive policies, U-turns, broken promises and dashed hopes.
It is a fact that the government has nothing to show to the people on the economic front. But the opposition parties cannot blame the PTI for the poor state of affairs because they are responsible for it. The government hopes the situation will improve after few more months of turbulence.