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The Express Tribune

Published Date: Apr 20, 2013

After five years, PPP shifts focus on energy woes

The
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the former ruling party, has launched its re-election
bid around seven core values — ensuring basic needs, empowerment for all,
inclusive and equitable growth, infrastructure for the future, social contract
reforms, security and foreign policy.

During
a seminar on the party’s manifesto organised by the Sustainable Development
Policy Institute (SDPI) on Friday, former finance minister Senator Saleem
Mandviwalla, and Senator Saeed Ghani expanded on the PPP’s promises, which
include increasing education and health spending to around five per cent of Gross
Domestic Product (GDP) each, and to create five million jobs in the next five
years if voted back into power.

Mandviwalla
said the PPP is most commonly blamed for the energy crisis. He said that when
the party came in to power in 2008, it had resolved to deal with the energy
sector using a three-pronged strategy — power plants in the short term,
changing the fuel mix in the medium term and increasing Pakistan’s hydropower
capacity in the long run.

He
partly admitted his party’s failure in bringing immediate relief from load
shedding but did not accept complete blame. “We were not able to implement the
short term plan at all,” Mandviwalla said. “It was shot down from various
quarters, which caused us to fail in this attempt.”

In
the 2013 manifesto, the party has said it aims to increase energy by 12,000
megawatts through a mix of fuel and $36 billion investment through IPPs, a
surprisingly high figure considering the entire federal budget for 2012-2013
was only $32.5 billion.

It
also wants to decrease transmission losses below 15 per cent through “prudent
policies and vigilant governance.”

Mandviwalla
said the party will try to widen the tax net and improve the economy base to
create an economic turnaround.

Unlike
the previous seminars in the SDPI’s series of discussions on political party
manifestos, there were no discussants at the PPP manifesto seminar, which meant
the party’s representatives had a relatively easy time compared to the other
parties that were scrutinised on the same platform.

But
participants did not let the PPP representatives get off scot-free.

Responding
to a question about the party’s claim of dividing land holdings among landless
peasants, Ghani said state land will be divided. He elaborated that if the
Supreme Court favourably decides the fate of a pending petition which argues
that land reforms are un-Islamic, the land reforms act will come into place and
private land could also be divided.

To
ensure labour representation, Ghani said the party has decided to give four
reserved seats in the National Assembly and two reserved seats in each
provincial assembly to labour leaders.

Responding
to a question about government subsidies, Mandviwalla said if the PPP is
elected to office again, it will not completely do away with various subsidies
but will make an effort to determine which subsidies are proving detrimental
for the state’s coffer.

Speakers
also raised questions about local governments, the current state of Pakistan’s
economy and the environment policy of the PPP, especially its role in approving
the timber movement policy for Diamer in Gilgit-Baltistan and the sale of two
islands near Karachi, which hold ecological importance for their mangrove
forests.