LAHORE - Though PML-N missed major targets set in the manifesto for the May 2013 election over the last four years’ rule, it had a clear edge over the preceding government of PPP if not that of the Musharraf era when the GDP growth of the country at a time touched the envious figure of around seven percent.

Before the election 2013, PML-N had made strong commitment to overcoming the energy crisis, developing infrastructure, boosting the economy, improving agriculture, bringing reforms in education and health sectors, creating job opportunities, ensuring prompt justice and peace, increasing exports, introducing good governance and creating provincial harmony. But it failed to meet the target in many areas although headway was made in all.

In the wake of the 18th Amendment of the Constitution and end to the Concurrent List, the vital sectors like education and health and production of electricity to limited quantum along with maintenance of law and order were handed over to the provinces. As such the fulfillment of the PML-N promises had to come also through the provinces of which this party ruled the largest one, Punjab, which received the lion’s share of resources from the divisible pool.

Over the last four years, the government did make efforts but not adequately, as the experts say. The major focus remained on electricity generation for which the party leaders initially set two years, then three and ultimately it fixed 2018 as the year to get rid of the electricity shortfall which had badly affected every area of the national life. It was, however, not clear yet whether the government would be able to eliminate power crisis next year despite the fact that the Chinese investment of $34 billion made in energy projects, is being stated pumping in more than 10,000MW to the national grid next year.

The promise to minimise the burden of foreign debts could not come true. Reports suggest the government over the four years obtained record foreign loans worth $ 25 billion and Rs 3,000 billion internal loans crossing the limit of the debt equity. Creation of jobs for unemployed remained short of commitment made in the manifesto. Reports suggest addition of two million jobless every year and the net increase in the number of unemployed as five million after four years with maximum number in Punjab. The government pumped huge Rs 342 billion in the agriculture sector that brought the agriculture out of negative productivity at the end of financial year 2016-17. The government, fulfilling a commitment, provided fertilisers, pesticides and agricultural implements at the subsidised rates to the growers.

The most hurting area was the export target which the party had promised to take over the imports, but the exports came down from $ 25 billion per annum to $ 20 billion while industrial growth also faced a decline from 8.5 percent growth to 5.2 over the last four years and the volume of foreign investment from other countries, except from China and Turkey, remained very disappointing. Over $ 34 billion imports created unfavourable trade balance which the government tried to narrow down by setting $ 24 billiom export target for the next year. Similarly, budget deficit continued to hit the economy which stands at 4.1 percent after four years of the N rule. Stock market remarkably touched 52,000 point and was linked to international portfolio while the state economy first time in the history reached $ 300 billion and efforts continued to keep the current account deficit at a reasonable level. Indeed, it is appreciable.

The government succeeded in bringing down the inflation from 13 percent of the preceding government to around 4 percent, but the other factors like direct taxes, agents’ role etc. did not fully transfer its benefits to the kitchen and daily-use items.

The millennium target set by the Unesco for the 100 percent enrollment of children to school till 2015 could not be achieved while promised spending of six percent on education also could not cross over two percent. Though health insurance scheme for the poor at the federal level was initiated, but the promised availability of healthcare to every citizen also remained a dream. Through the manifesto the party had promised to fix minimum salary at Rs 15,000 which it could enhance only from Rs 9,000 to 12,000 in the four years.

The government failed to revamp PIA and Pakistan Steel Mills, strapped by cumulative loans of over Rs 550 billion, which both continued to show a heavy burden on the national economy. Similarly, it also failed to curtail line losses and control theft of electricity although the manifesto had promised to take serious measures in this behalf. By linking the power tariff with the fuel adjustment, electricity price continued to fluctuate on the higher side.

As law and order was inevitably linked to control on terrorism and extremism in the country, a National Action Plan was shaped up with the cooperation of the army, which effectively worked to return peace to Karachi and curtail the incidents of terrorism, but no total control over the terror scourge could be achieved as political expediencies came in the way of total implementation of the plan. The promise made to provide speedy justice to the aggrieved remained a dream after the four years while accountability of the corrupt and big fish also could not take place and corruption at the lower level remained in practice in the face of the government claims to have abolished the evil at the top level.

In the IT sector, the government did make headway. The PML-N government in Punjab took the country ahead in this sector. Insufficient job opportunities and political uncertainly contributed to brain drain and flight of capital from the country.

Mining and exploration of natural resources was carried out, but at a larger scale in Balochistan where this treasure worth hundreds of billions of dollars exists.

After initial failures to attract various states of the world to invest in energy and other sectors of development, the government targeted China which entered a whopping $ 46 billion (now reaches $ 56 billion) China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project which is meant to meet not only the energy needs of the country but also to provide for infrastructural needs through the construction of about 2,300km road and railway link between Chinese city of Kashgar and Pakistan’s port of Gwadar with industrial zones throughout. Since agreement in April 2015, CPEC has become focus of economic development of the country, which covered 14 main areas of economic activity, investment prospects, agricultural uplift, tourism and other public-sector benefits through mutual cooperation of countries becoming part of this mega project. The completion of the project was envisioned in 2025, with meeting the energy needs of Pakistan by 2018, is a total Chinese investment, yet the PML-N terms it a game changer and a major source of economic turnaround of the country. The CPEC is now being considered a cornerstone of the national prosperity and development in the time to come.

The budget 2017-18 is the last of the PML-N government which carries incentives for servicemen, agriculturalists, industrialists and professionals, youth and the women, but how they meet the missed goals and narrow down the gap between the commitments and what was actually done by the N government remains to be seen. In the budget, record Rs 2.11 trillion has been earmarked for the Public Sector Development Programme which means putting huge money at the disposal of the party legislators obviously for development schemes to come closer to what was committed before the election. For the next fiscal year, the GDP growth target has been set at 6 percent although the government failed to achieve the same over the last four years.