Mian Fazal Ahmad - The PML (N) enjoys virtually two third majority in the National Assembly & a significant hold in the Senate. This evidently provides PML (N) a potential strength to solve the national critical issues with ease through vital legislative measures & structural reforms to bail out the nation from an economic morass. The extraordinary mandate can put the national economy on high growth path apart from grappling with a multitude of problems inherited from the past Governments. Will PML (N) Government be able to overcome the gigantic issues of energy crises, terrorism, galloping inflation, severely depressed national economy, increasing unemployment & poverty forcing tragic suicides.
The PML (N) hopefully understands the difference in national scenarios now & their past two Rules. On the previous occasions, the national media & especially the electronic media was not so independent & widespread. Consequently the public awareness levels were not so high as today. The PTI (Pakistan Tehrik Insaaf) factor was not there. All this poses big challenges to PML (N) to effectively deliver & even do much more to establish a display of good governance.
Why people have largely voted for PML (N) in the Elections this year? PML (N)’s popularity goes back to some of their historic achievements made in the past which have impacted the minds of the people at large over the years. The people of Pakistan by & large do consider the PML (N) as a patriotic party. The nuclear explosions, the motorway construction, the historic Water Sharing Accord & the Financial Accords among the Provinces originated in the ninetees & lately their prominent struggle for the restoration of independent Judiciary – all these past performances have imprinted some lasting impressions on the minds of a majority of the people of Pakistan.
However, during their current tenure, if PML (N) does not deliver substantially on their commitments made in their manifesto & speeches, the people of Pakistan may react very harshly against the Party. The recent defeat of PML (N) candidate in a Provincial Assembly Bye-Election must be an eye opener for the PML (N) leadership indicating dents in their votebank.
Nonetheless, a reasonable timeframe is rationally imperative to surmount the piled up thorny national issues. PML (N) do have a good team & apparently a strong political will to meet the colossal national challenges now gripping the nation.
What to do?
With the heavy mandate in store, PML (N) should priorities fast track solutions of the following national issues.
* Achieving Economic recovery marked by energy crises resolution in the shortest time.
* Terrorism & national security issues.
* Increasing unemployment
* Galloping Inflation Control
* Poverty alleviation measures & other vital critical issues confronting the national economic recovery.
Severe Economic Depression:
Severe Economic depression coupled with energy crises resolution are highly vital issues calling for fast track mega efforts. The national economy is virtually mortgaged & foreign loans have surpassed our 60 billion US$. Citing an example, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif recently inspected the Neelum Jahlum Project & was highly concerned over its five fold increase in costs to Rs 285 billion. Designed to generate 969 MWs, it is delayed for years. This is only one case. The fact is that the public sector development budget is much wasted due to bureaucratic redtapism & thirty to forty percent of the capital budget is consumed in costs escalations resulting from procedural delays. It requires to lay down strict procedures to fix responsibilities & accountability for such wastage of funds in the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP).
National Economic recovery needs to be handled under a well prepared & comprehensive long term & short term action plans to be prepared by a task force of elected representatives, independent technical experts & senior executives of the Government. The Energy Crisis has some fast track & economical solutions also which need to be planned & implemented. The current strategies of solutions are rather long term & very expensive.
A strict monitoring plan is needed to ensure implementation of such economic recovery program. In fact, the plan must focus not only on the Economic recovery but also on putting the national economy on high growth path in real terms.
To control galloping inflation, apart from fast track productivity enhancement measures, urgent rationalisation of power tariffs is imperative. There is lot of scope for reducing power tariffs using international models.
Administrative Reforms are much needed to meet the changing needs of professionalism, modernization, use of new technologies to achieve high levels of service to the people in the wake of challenges posed by the 21st century.
The menace of terrorism is threatening the national economic development & quality of life. Scores of innocent lives are lost every month. Ch Nisar Ali Khan, the new Federal Home Minister has rightly diagnosed the core problems involved. He has declared to prepare a national security plan which is indeed a real need of the time to tackle the security threats. Apart from the missing areas of coordination & security management, some other very important weak areas need to be addressed. Induction of modern technologies including ICT applications, and intensive training of intelligence agencies are effectively needed urgently. A massive media campaign has to be launched to publicize extensively the Islamic injunctions against the so called sacred tinge given to terrorism. Islam does not allow killing of innocent people. Federal Home Ministry in association with the Information Ministry should allocate funds for this purpose. This is a big missing factor in the fight against terrorism.
Rising unemployment is a big threatening challenge especially for the educated youth. The new budget 2013 does provide training & employment opportunities together with special unemployment allowance for the unemployed.
The recently launched Youth Business Loan Scheme is a positive step but the procedures need to simplified more & more to provide relief to the Youth in real terms.
It is a starting point however. A lot is still to be done in this direction. Expansion of PSDP substantially will open employment opportunities for the youth.
It would have been much better if the new Budget had provided measures for boosting industrial & agricultural productivity so that the national economy could have been put on a high growth path in real terms capable to generate more national income, GDP & also boost exports.
Pragmatic policy framework is needed for poverty reduction programs to bring relief to the poverty stricken poor people hit by mounting inflation & unemployment. Number of suicides is going up each year. The income support program of the pervious PPP led Govt was more a political one rather than a genuine assistance to the needy. Some significant following steps need to be taken now to mitigate the worsening Poverty situation;
* Massive skills development programs among the unemployment youth are needed.
* Compulsory education programs should be launched at least upto matriculation levels through appropriate legislation to compel parents to educate their children at least in the public sector schools.
* Export of skilled manpower to be managed at the highest Government levels among friendly countries in the Middle East & Africa. This would have multiple benefits in terms of poverty alleviation & multiplying home remittances as well.