The PTI’s white paper on the government’s performance in the first year is a laudable effort but remains a disappointment mainly because it is riddled with errors that betray a careless compilation of the facts.
For instance, calling the sale of UBL shares a “loot sale” to “near and dear ones” on the basis of information coming from “market rumours” can only be termed sloppy.
In some places, the paper makes grievous factual errors, such as claiming power tariffs have increased by 78pc in the last year, whereas the real figure is 31pc. Or that the size of the debt has increased by Rs2,000bn, when the real figure is closer to Rs 1,375bn.
Referring to the $1.1bn raised through the 3G auction as “a dismal response” based on a news item again indicates shoddy fact-checking, because the amount budgeted to be raised from the auction was $1.2bn.
Some of the complaints the document raises are fair, particularly regarding the nepotism that the PML-N is known for, and also the delays in filling key posts in regulators and state-owned enterprises.
But many other complaints should have been checked first, such as the declines noted in the Global Competitiveness Report which actually relate to the period 2010-2012.
The paper is a laudable initiative to build a fact-based critique of the government’s performance, but careless fact-checking combined with emotional appeals erodes its credibility. Above all, the paper fails to make a case for the government to step down.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has issued a detailed but point-by-point rejoinder to the white paper. The minister’s efforts to engage with the critique of the paper are commendable, but his responses can also be termed misleading in important ways.
For example, he argues that foreign investment has increased to $4.4bn in the last year despite questions regarding how this figure has been computed, and the IMF’s assessment that FDI remains “disappointingly weak”.
He barely touches on the charges of nepotism even though they are substantial and provide clear indication that his government views alternate opinions and independent minds with suspicion.
The government’s efforts to shift borrowing towards foreign sources has been questioned by the State Bank as well, yet Mr Dar does not address the concerns.
Overall, it is good to see this fact-based exchange between the PTI and PML-N, but it would be better if both sides made a more honest effort to indicate the reality.
Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2014