LAHORE: The poor continue to suffer as the PML-N government half way down its tenure lags behind the targets it set for major areas in its manifesto for the 2013 elections, it has been learnt from various reports. The party embarked on the rule on an ambitious note to end unemployment, loadshedding, terrorism, corruption and poverty through good governance, economic turnaround and re-establishment of peace in the country. The dream of economic revival and prosperity largely hinged on ending the electricity crisis, eliminating terrorism, capacity building of the human resources and strengthening of institutions. On most of the fronts, implementation of the manifesto is not up to the mark until now.

Though efforts are on to set things right, no substantial improvement has come about in the life of the common man. Joblessness has increased and living has become more costly. A report says over 40 million people are continuing to live below the poverty line while 5.3 million stay unemployed. As many as 1.5 million unemployed people have been added in the last two years, making the total number of unemployed highest in last 13 years. This has been reckoned as the major indicator of the slow economic growth of the economy. The fight against terrorism, a key concern, is however making headway. It is being spearheaded by the armed forces since June 2014, after the abortive ventures of the government for striking peace deal with Taliban. Since 9/11 this war has cost the country over $100 billion besides loss of over 50,000 lives. When the war will be over is anybody’s guess as the terror hits are still going on.

The Moody’s has lifted the rating of Pakistan economy from negative to neutral although it attained the growth target of 4.2 per cent against the set 5.1 per cent. The government nevertheless claims it was heading to meet the target of six percent plus GDP within its tenure. Inflation has come down to below five per cent which was largely due to drastic fall in the oil price in the international market. Yet the government has missed other macroeconomic targets on investment, saving and tax collection. The process of reforms in these sectors is on. The ratio of Foreign Direct Investment remained much lower to what was envisioned through the manifesto. Barring the Chinese investment of $46 billion (with the borrowing from Chinese bank), the ratio of FDI has been recorded less than 50 per cent.

Reaching a favourable balance of trade was planned but the government is still struggling hard on this score. Exports target in 2015 was set at $27 billion but it ended at $24 billion. However import bill has come down by 14 per cent due to cut in oil prices which otherwise stood at over $40 billion. A strategic trade policy framework has been to take up exports to $35billion by 2018 and given the said it appears a hard task. The government cut the bank interest rate to 6 per cent but industrialisation and economic activity remained disappointing while the poor faced loss on their savings. Against the claim of over 2 per cent reduction in the prices, the prices on the daily items like pulses, vegetables, sugar did not come down. The government also held back from the masses due benefit from the reduced oil prices.

The manifesto envisaged the minimisation of the foreign loans and payment of the existing through privatisation of the assets, but on both counts it failed. Only 3G and 4G licences fetched around one billion dollar while privatisation of PIA and Pakistan Steel Mills remained at incipient stage. The World Bank in May 2014 approved $12 billion loans for Pakistan for the next five years. This money is to be spent on energy sector, shortfall in the tax revenue and to pay the government expenditure. Saudi government last year provided $1.5 billion as a ‘friendly gesture’ to the Sharif government.

In order to generate revenue the government sold out $500 million bonds on hefty 8.25 per cent interest. This all, couple increase of about $1 billion in remittances took the foreign reserves to record over $20 billion but the economists term it debt trapping of the country. As to the energy sector, the government continued to change the timeframe for ending the loadshedding which now has been set in the year 2018 although experts seriously doubt it coming true. A major chunk of the Chinese investment of $46 billion has been pumped in the energy sector yet the cost effective electricity is still a question.

As a major stride to economic turnaround and job creation, China Pakistan Economic Corridor is set to be completed within the current tenure. And, this is going to be a big hope of the government to fulfil its promises before the election. The manifesto promised construction of dams but two major hydel projects Dasu and Bhasha have been left to the next tenure of the PML-N government. Calculating the power shortfall of around 6,000 to 7,000 megawatt the government broke ground of two coal based projects and three gas based power plants which will altogether contribute 5,000mw to the system by 2018.

The manifesto highlighted transparency in the government spending but Nandipur Power plant, whose original cost of Rs22billion rose to Rs58billion and beyond, failed to deliver. Generation capacity of solar power plant in Bahawalpur is another sorry story. Both these projects stand as a scandal before the media, with Nandipur being subject to NAB probe presently. Gradual cut in power tariff was promised but contrary to that it was increased. Similarly, appointment of the favourites to the lucrative posts also put a question mark on the merit and transparency claims of the government.

According to a report by the Auditor General of Pakistan, Rs1,000 billion have been embezzled through mismanagement in the various projects since inception of the government while tax collection remained the lowest in the world. Manifesto promised broadening of the tax base and lowering volume of the tax and on counts the target could not be secured. Following 18th constitutional amendment, many departments were devolved to the provinces including education, health and revenue collection. PML-N government on a note to ensure education to all fixed 4 per cent of the GDP for education and two per cent for health. However, at the midway of the tenure only one per cent on education and lesser than this could be allocated to health.

In infrastructural development, Lahore-Karachi motorway, expansion of Lahore and Karachi airports and Gwadar development project are eminent. Four different parties ruled four provinces which necessitated the government to keep them closely binding. The government made special efforts for peace in Karachi but it failed to regularly hold Council of Common Interest meetings and that of Economic Coordination Council. As to development in provinces, PML-N government in Punjab is conspicuously ahead of others. Political cohesion is also a question so far. The government faced political hiccups in the way. The PTI dharna is believed to be major part which, according to the rulers, took away its precious time. However, the government confronted embarrassment within its party folds when its own people washed the dirty linen in public.

Faislabad’s Sher Ali and Rana Sanullah episode and that cold war between Defence Minister Khwaja Asif, Interior Minister Ch Nisara and Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif, and that of federal ministers Ahsan Iqbal and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi exposed the internal rifts and weakness of the party and harmed its development agenda. Shahbaz Sharif took over Khwaja Asif in electricity projects which ruffled the feathers of the former. Despite all this, the government is optimistically going ahead to make good the commitments it made through the manifesto.