FINANCE Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh is correct to remind his cabinet colleagues that the failure of this government to resolve the power crisis is a collective one, that they must all share the burden of accountability. The figures given by the minister tell us the scale of this failure. Despite pouring Rs1.4tn into the power sector since this government was elected, the scale of the crisis has only grown. It’s also important to note that the same time period has seen power tariffs climb by almost 75 per cent, by some estimates. Where did all this money go? And the power crisis is not the only failing for which the government needs to be collectively held responsible. The finance minister was compelled to remind his colleagues of their joint responsibility after they had reacted with displeasure and disbelief to his admittedly rosy take on the state of price inflation in the country.
It is true that problems like power shortages and price inflation are beyond the scope of any one ministry to address. In the power sector for instance, a proper execution of the right policies will need tight coordination among the ministries of petroleum, finance and water and power. It is a mystery why the government has not appointed a strong and credible minister to head the water and power ministry. The same applies to price inflation. The finance minister has a large role to play in maintaining fiscal discipline, which is essential for price stability, but his role must be matched by the rest of the government that must draw up proper spending priorities. If the cabinet fails to pull together in setting and executing the policy agenda the result will inevitably be failure, in spite of the best efforts of individuals. And that is the biggest letdown on the part of this government. It has not been able to come together to draw up and execute a policy agenda that addresses key problems. Instead its approach has been piecemeal and ad hoc. As a result, its performance has been chaotic. That failure belongs equally to each member of the cabinet.