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PTI’s ‘pro-poor’ agenda too big to implement

May 20, 2013

PESHAWAR, May 19: The upcoming Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf led provincial government will find it hard to turn its pro-people election manifesto into a reality without growing Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s income considerably, according to official sources.

“The PTI would find Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s existing income insufficient to finance an investment intensive programme promised under its election manifesto,” said an important functionary.

Some of the senior government functionaries, in their background interviews to Dawn, said that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was balancing its annual budget with quite a difficulty, hardly meeting its most important expenditure requirements.

“This programme (PTI’s agenda) would be difficult to implement without improving the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s income levels,” said an official.

The party has promised to create a bottom-up governance system establishing village level councils, focusing on the community.

“Each village will be governed by an empowered village council,” contains its manifesto, adding “a village will have sufficient money as a ‘right’ to maintain services and perform functions that will become its responsibility under village councils.”

The party has promised to empower village councils and provide them access to development funds for investment and infrastructure.

According to official sources, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will need to make significant changes in its local government law which took effect on January 1 this year after the last provincial government repealed the Local Government Ordinance 2001.

“The PTI is talking about things that would require a bigger government, requiring substantial investment to implement its plans,” said a finance manager.

Its plan envisages rural industrialisation by developing cottage industry and micro enterprises and promotion of small and medium enterprises through ‘finance support systems, technology and market linkages.’ In an effort to encourage and provide incentives for fulfilling people’s housing needs, the party has promised to give innovative financing measures to facilitate the deserving. Similarly, it plans to establish ‘Jawan Markaz’ (youth centres) in all districts and tehsils to facilitate youths in addition to significantly increasing scholarships and free loans for deserving students. In fulfillment of an identical promise, the party will set up ‘Insafgah’ (one step women centres) at the union council level to provide medical, legal, economic direction, references, and aid to women. Besides, self-employed women have been promised training programmes, subsidies, and monetary incentives to increase opportunities.

It has also promised to modernise the trucking industry and introduce ‘mass transport systems’ in all major cities.

“All this sounds great, but it would be difficult to achieve without money,” said a development planner.

The insufficient money has been an issue that none of the successive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments found it easy to overcome, managing funds with a higher degree of difficulty.

The last provincial government had anticipated to raise a total of Rs303 billion revenue receipts during the outgoing financial year. Of this amount, over Rs191 billion would serve the province’s current revenue expenditure requirements, including a total expenditure of Rs115.4 billion on salaries of the government employees, and Rs31.5 billion on the government’s necessary operations, repair and maintenance works.

However, the next government could work around to gradually implement its manifesto by making use of the funds available for development activities.

The province, said an official, had already committed itself for at least next three years as its ongoing development schemes would take, on average, three years to complete, requiring an investment of over Rs300 billion.

“They (PTI leaders) are talking about improving social services at the village level which means more nurses, more doctors, more health equipment, and more teachers across the province,” said a planner.

The PTI’s manifesto promises to extend primary health care to the poor, revitalise all basic health units with doctors, staff and medicines. Similarly, it promises to make rural health centres to be the fulcrum of the primary health care delivery, improving mother and child health care and modernising all district and tehsil headquarters hospitals.

Apart from creating jobs in healthcare it promises to ‘dramatically increase the number of nurses, lady health visitors, paramedics, doctors with special focus on dentists and eye doctors.

The PTI has promised to ensure availability of clean drinking water and sanitation facilities across rural and urban areas.

Similarly, in the education sector, the party has promised to increase a fivefold greater investment in five years, underlying one education system across the area under its rule.

Promising a decentralised service delivery system at the district level, the party has committed to empower community to help manage schools, introduce a need-based voucher system to fund students to go to private schools to fill gaps where government schools are not enough with focus on girls education (double number of girls high schools in five years).

As per its election promise, the party would go for holding local body elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa within 100 days after coming into power.

“This means a lot of work to do in the months to come, overhauling the existing local government law to make it in accordance with the new government’s manifesto and organising the government administrative structures at the grassroots level that had recently been wounded up by the last provincial government,” said an official.