Learning From The Previous Government’s Policy Failures
Without getting into the Panama Papers and personal conduct of the Sharifs, I simply want to bring your attention to the policy failures of the previous government headed by PML-N. These policy failures have not only acted as rational and factual bases to reject the previous ruling party, they have also minimized the room for opinion-based arguments. Some of them include the following:
1. The economy of this country has been left in a position that is worse off than what had been received by the PML-N. For the past 5 years, Pakistan’s foreign debt has risen from around $60 billion to around $90 billion. This has been an unprecedented increase in the history of this country in a single tenure. Pakistan’s total debt (internal + external) is now above $210 billion.
2. As former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s stay in office was reaching its twilight, we had a trade deficit of $32 billion in 2016-17. Our current account deficit was $14.03 billion in the first 10 months of the current fiscal year 2018. Our budget deficit had been at a record high of Rs. 1.481 trillion around election time in 2018 and likely to cross 1.83 trillion rupees till the end of the fiscal year. Clearly, the PML-N’s economic policy has failed this country.
3. It is a widely acknowledged fact that had there not been the following two factors, our economy would never have grown at the rate of 5.2% – something Nawaz Sharif boasts about and something on which PML N’s entire myth of economic performance is based:
a. Favorable international oil prices;
b. Monetary inflow due to China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
In other words, they just got a little lucky.
4. They are the party of big businesses and known for giving tax cuts – such as amnesty schemes – to larger businesses while penalizing the masses through indirect taxation. Pakistan’s tax-to-GDP ratio is 11%, which should be around 17-18%. With indirect taxes showing a surplus and direct taxes falling short of meeting the target, what have they done to strengthen the tax base in the country? They simply couldn’t care less. With failing tax machinery and rising debt, they have made sure that Pakistan remains entangled in the loop of taking loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
5. 63% of Pakistan’s population is is categorized as the youth. At the same time, the most depressed faction of Pakistani populace is its millennial base (aged between 18 and 33). PML-N’s youth policy, if at all, has drastically failed to meet the need of the hour where 2 million young people are entering the job market every year. All they came up with was a youth scheme, a laptop scheme and few other fashionable displays. That was not enough! The youth bulge is the real time-bomb. Our official unemployment rate remains at 6% but it is not a hidden secret that most private sector analysts believe it to be much higher. Companies of international standing, like Nielsen, have claimed unemployment to be around 50%. In this situation, the youth of this country is manifestly prone to intimidation towards extremism and terrorism, not to mention severe depression and loss of confidence.
6. Poverty in Pakistan has only increased over the years. As PML-N’s government left office, 39% of the population was living in multidimensional poverty and 29% of the people were reported to earn under rupees 3,030 per month. A huge chunk of the Pakistani population is finding it hard to make ends meet, resulting in poor health and working conditions. Did the previous government have any “poverty reduction strategy”? None. And if they can claim they did, they should at least have the decency to accept that it had failed badly. Such failed policies explain why governments are replaced.
7. One of the major concerns in any country is that of health. A healthy population ensures that your economy will have the necessary human resources to back it up. To the utter disgust of this nation, 0.5% was the spending on the health sector when PML-N left office, while Pakistan had the highest infant mortality rate in South Asia, coupled with a slew of other miserable indicators such as a rise in commutable and non-commutable diseases. Acceptable? Not acceptable.
8. In his election campaign in 2013, Nawaz Sharif had promised to spend 4% of the GDP on education, yet, the PML-N only spent around 2.5% of it. It is widely known that many social and economic issues of Pakistan emanate from a feeble education system. Did they ever have any education policy in the first place? I doubt that. Today, the United Nations claims that Pakistan is about 60 years behind in achieving its Sustainable Development Goals’ targets. More significant than the question of ‘providing’ education is the question of the ‘kind’ of education to be provided. Of course it must be one with qualitative elements as well. Under Article 25-A of the Constitution of Pakistan, providing education to all till the age of 16 has been declared a responsibility of the state, yet, Pakistan also has the unfortunate title of hosting the second largest out-of-school children in the world (22.5 million). In fact, it was during the previous government led by PML-N that instead of increasing, the literacy rate slipped by 2% (from 60% to 58%). Miserable!
9. They are corrupt. But more the more important question is, what have they done as governors of this country to eradicate corruption? Have the strengthened anti-corruption institutions? Not really and not until they were haunted by the same! The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has been a controversial institution providing “plea-bargains”, “voluntary returns” and safe exits to the corrupt ones, including Nawaz Sharif himself and many of his aides. The Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA’s) performance has been even more dismal. Adding to that failure is the fact that our Anti-Corruption Strategy dates back to 2002. Bothered updating it? Never! Corruption is deemed to have been carried out by not only the leadership that is actually doing it but also by the ones who tolerate it.
10. Pakistan has been the epicenter of terrorism since decades. Putting aside what foreign actors did or have been doing, it is a reality that many terrorist groups are working under different names inside the country. Thousands of madrassas have been deemed questionable, yet, action has been taken against only handful of them. The National Action Plan (NAP) has also miserably failed to take action on these particular points. Whose responsibility was to ensure a proper implementation of NAP? The ruling party’s. This failure has also resulted in Pakistan finding itself on the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF’s) grey list.
11. Balochistan is a province that constantly ranks low in all rankings, be it literacy, health, services, education, etc. For over a decade, a low-intensity insurgency has been underway in the province. The unemployment rate is over 70%. Today, the people of Balochistan have serious grievances with CPEC and the economic activities at Gawadar since Baloch youth and Baloch firms have not been provided a lot of opportunities in the projects. Who was responsible to ensure that the Baloch youth was prepared in advance to benefit from jobs created through CPEC, or prepared anyway? The previous ruling party. It is not the mainstreaming of Balochistan that bothers that locals – one of their greatest fears is that if the infiltration of non-Baloch people, including the Chinese, continues in Balochistan, the Baloch will become a minority in their own province by 2048. Was there someone responsible to mainstream and upgrade Balochistan responsibly? Yes, the ruling party. And what did they do instead? They provided a failed Khushali Package.
A government is put in office to upgrade the citizens’ standard of living to a level that is at least better than the level that existed before it entered office. Irrespective of any non-democratic elements meddling in to penalize Nawaz Sharif and his party, one wonders if anyone would still have liked to vote for such an incompetent treasury.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any organization with which he might be associated.