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NEW PROMISES FOR OLD

Manifestos look great on paper but they have been seldom implemented

The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) recently launched a seminar series to critically evaluate manifestos of major political parties of Pakistan. Presenting the political manifesto of the last ruling party, PPP representatives said that the party was able to deliver on most of its manifesto points but could not implement some promises due to interventions from certain quarters.
The PPP election manifesto 2013 guarantees the provision of basic need to every citizen, empowerment of all citizens, inclusive growth, infrastructure development for the future, a new social contract, ensuring security and positive engagement with the international community. The PPP pledges to increase education expenditure to 4.5 percent of GDP and would bridge the public-private and regional gaps in the quality of education through the establishment of the National Education Standard Council.

According to the party, the BISP has proved to be a successful social protection system and the PPP plans to double the monthly payments under the program if elected to office. Health spending would be increased to 5 percent of GDP and it will bring down the population growth rate from 2 to 1.6 percent by 2018.
The other major political party, PML-N, presented its manifesto towards the end of April.  The party seeks to revive the economy during its five-year tenure through pro-investment and pro-business policies with a planned growth rate of about 6 percent (double the present growth rate). The party claims that the tax-to-GDP ratio will be increased to 15 percent, and investment to GDP ratio will be pushed up to 20 percent respectively.

To curb the energy crisis, the party promises to invest USD 20 billion in power sector to generate 10,000 MW of electricity (half of it from coal). Expenditure on education would be increased to 4 percent of GDP (through such initiatives such as Daanish schools). The health sector spending would be increased to 2 percent of GDP for subsidisation of health care through measures such as the Medical Insurance Card system.

The PTI manifesto session briefly elaborated all the sectors that need to be prioritised like education, energy, health, economy, rural governance systems, institutional reform, expenditures reform and revenue reform. PTI envisioned converting Pakistan from being merely a security state to a welfare state. The party representatives claimed to introduce fiscal reforms in order to increase spending in the social sector, particularly health and education. PTI will decentralise the health governance system, and promote alternate energy. Moreover, the party proposes to form a rural governance system, managed by village councils, in order to increase community ownership and transparency of resource allocation.
PML-Q, in its manifesto, promises to combat extremism through the establishment of a National Security Council and an effective Counter Terrorism Strategy. PML-Q seeks to enhance synchronisation between the civil and military systems, the center and provinces, and within various law enforcement agencies. The PML-Q aspires to build an inclusive, tolerant and pluralistic society. The party hopes to achieve this by providing free education to all, forming a special parliamentary committee to address all legitimate interests of the public, and, interestingly, by providing a comprehensive insurance policy for journalists.

The ANP envisions a “Pur-Aman Pakistan”. The party is committed to evolve a national consensus for peace by engaging in a dialogue with disturbed groups within conflict areas.  Moreover, the party pledges to provide equitable social and economic rights to all federating units of Pakistan. The ANP is committed to increase the education budget to 6 percent of GDP.  The party promises to provide free education to all in public schools (including uniforms, textbooks and stipends to female students).

The MQM manifesto titled “Empowering People” promises power to the people to achieve progress, prosperity and stability in the country. Effective implementation of local government system is MQM’s top priority. The manifesto of MQM tackles a wide range of issues including education, health, economy, governance, corruption, terrorism and poverty alleviation in Pakistan. The MQM considers health and education as the most crucial sectors, and promises the allocation of 5 percent of GDP for education and 5 percent for health. The party will widen the tax net by applying agricultural income throughout the country and addressing the leakages and loopholes in various sectors. The MQM promise radical reforms in the education sector particularly in textbooks where hate material would be removed which is promoting extremism in the country.

The missing element in every party’s manifesto appeared to be a deliverable plan of action as to how the party is going to implement its policy statements. Moreover, the promises seem more of a repetition of the unfulfilled-promises that were made five-years ago. The manifestos of the parties in power for the last five years were unconvincing as they made little reference to lessons learnt from past experience and focused on discussing future solutions.

Pakistan’s major political parties demonstrate a clear understanding of the issues and problems at hand. However, they are not able to provide any realistic solutions. The political parties, before the election, are motivated to work for the betterment of the people, but their policies are seldom implemented during their tenure. The implementation of policy requires political will. Unfortunately this is something that is missing in the established political parties.

This article was originally published at: The Spokesman

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.