The PML-N’s three Es

Published: August 16, 2012

The writer, a former chief economist of the Planning Commission, is at present based at Cambridge in the UK pervez.tahir@tribune.com.pk

Upon my return from Cambridge, it seemed to me that after water-powered motoring, our inventiveness had gone beyond 3D technology to the three Es. That it was a catchphrase for a party-political platform was disappointing; the perfunctory content more so. The party chief’s rather charged statement is the only source of information. The website is silent. The first ‘E’ is for energy — doubtlessly, our number one problem — which a strong military government and a dithering political government have failed to tackle in the past 12 years. Economy, the second E, is also in a shambles but critically related to the ‘E’ for energy. So the two Es are essentially one. Like always, education is a poor third in the ordering of the Es.

Take the ‘E’ for energy first. The PML-N in power will settle circular debt in six months and ensure uninterrupted power supply within two years. The issue of circular debt is not simply a question of somehow arranging a large one-time payment to the suppliers of fuel to thermal units, which are the main source of power generation. Over a trillion rupees paid in the past four years have not resolved it. It is a stock as well as flow issue. The flow issue lingers on because even after being doubled, the electricity tariff is less than the cost by about Rs3 per kilowatt hour. Failure to fully recover revenue — mainly from public authorities — and prevent theft in the private sector complicates the problem. Losses because of inefficient generation and distribution are in addition. Will the PML-N end the subsidy involved and borrow to pay up? Will it double the tax revenue in six months? Or, is there a magic wand to reduce the cost of producing electricity in the aging system? Getting rid of the circular debt does not add enough power to end loadshedding. No major hydroelectric project in the pipeline is likely to be on stream before 2016. In two years, small additions from the ongoing projects of Mangla, Satpara and Gomal Zam are expected. New IPPs based on imported coal are likely to take longer than two years to produce. A more effective conservation and efficiency plan is a possibility but it is not enough. Rental power may not be to the taste of the PML-N. So, what does it have up its sleeves? And, where is a concrete plan to end gas loadshedding?

‘E’ for economy sees Pakistan in world’s top 10 economies through a package for industrialists and interest-free loans for the youth. Mercifully, no time frame was given to achieve this aim. According to the IMF data for 2011, in nominal terms, the difference between the GDP per capita of the Netherlands — the tenth best performing economy — and Pakistan was $49,134. Pakistan’s ranking was 148. Assuming best possible economic management and double-digit growth for Pakistan and zero growth for the Netherlands, eight five-year terms are required to bridge this gap.

Finally, education, the third E, was mentioned only in passing. The top 10 countries of the world place education above energy and economy. Their productivity varies with the quality and coverage of education.

In general, party manifestos are statements of intent. One does not expect solutions worked out in all their details. But the experience in Pakistan is that the manifestos are put aside as soon as a party assumes power. The people would like to know more — actually, a lot more, as to how a promise will materialise. The PPP’s five Es and the MMA’s claims are still fresh in memory. The PML-N itself hardly consulted its 2008 manifesto while spending billions in Punjab.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2012.

Reader Comments (22)

  • Ejaaz
    Aug 16, 2012 - 10:56PM

    With a growth rate close to 3%, with trillions looted and shipped out of the country by the elite, with a bankrupt economy, with an utterly unskilled unemployable labor, and with no consensus why we even created this country, best of luck to anyone who is trying to put the state back on the rails and avoid the carnage being planned by our Jihadi assets.

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  • salman
    Aug 16, 2012 - 11:19PM

    We can’t expect anything of substance from PMLN.
    And we didn’t get anything of substance from PMLN.

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  • hmm
    Aug 16, 2012 - 11:25PM

    Good analysis, but can you shed some light on IK’s ending corruption in 90 days?

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  • Aug 16, 2012 - 11:29PM

    The PMLN is simply interested in power and nothing else!

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  • Zafar
    Aug 16, 2012 - 11:35PM

    Its good that some one at least questioned the credentials of slogans and claims of other parties except PTI. Just because Imran Khan claims of clearing all the mess in the country (ofcourse it seems more of a claim) doesn’t mean that he should be held accountable through and through while completely neglecting what others have cooked for this nation for decades. I wished some anchor person make Nawaz Sharif to explain what exactly is meant by these “3 Es”. Had he forgotten about them in last tenures? What PPP has got in his minds before next elections? why they can’t perform now? Trend of criticising and just criticising only and only PTI is unjustifiable and will do no good!

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  • Falcon
    Aug 17, 2012 - 12:11AM

    Bravo Doctor Sahab. We have to expect better from the political parties this time around. This is not 90s where they can sell Kool-Aid to the public and they will buy it. My major concern is that PMLN is not paying attention to the idea of fundamental reforms. If anything, it will go for cosmetic reforms. They are unlikely to do phased replacement of current expensive energy infrastructure. Similarly, they are less likely to introduce fiscal reforms that would increase our tax-to-GDP ratio sizably. Lastly, education reform is more than just Danish schools, it is about getting millions of kids currently out of school back in the class for a better future.

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  • Adeel759
    Aug 17, 2012 - 3:00AM

    Great Respect for Dr Sahib. Plan 3Es forwarded by PMLN is important and necessary.. Few points to make. 1 I doubt you considered PPP (Purch Power Parity) when compared Pakistan’s GDP per capita with Netherlands. 2 Worlds best economies dont put Energy on top because they dint have Energy Problem. Pakistan’s problems are different from developed economies’s issues. Pakistan can be one of the Fastest Growing Econ in a matter of few years but not the Best Econ Power for decades to come. PLMN’s order of priority is well defined, but their conviction to fulfill this Plan remains in question.

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  • zia
    Aug 17, 2012 - 3:04AM

    PMLN is a big failure.

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  • Lahori
    Aug 17, 2012 - 4:14AM

    The three E manifesto is starting to sound as baseless as the roti kapra makaan. I’m surprised that Imran khan also claimed to end loadshedding in so so days and corruption in some 3 months. It was a brilliant idea from someone on these forums who suggested that the SC have the right to abolish the gov. if they fail to meet a certain percentage of their target

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  • FromPakistan
    Aug 17, 2012 - 5:47AM

    Ok let’s leave PML (N) for the time being ….. Let’s assume you are the prime minister !
    What’s the solution to Energy Crisis ? How you can bridge the GAP between Norway and Pakistan in let say 10 years (assuming you are given the charge for 10 years). How you will solve the education problem !

    Problem with pseudo intellects (sorry to say) like you is they never come up with solution …. The only thing kinds of you know is to criticize !

    Personally I hate PML (N) …. and I would have loved your article it would have given the flaws with how PML(N) is approaching these issues, instead you painted a picture of Pakistan with no signs of improvement in next 85 years !

    I would rather sit quite than criticize a plan and not propose an alternative plan !

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  • 3footninja
    Aug 17, 2012 - 10:40AM

    pml-n’s definition of 3Es is actually… 1) empty 2) empty 3) empty

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  • Arifq
    Aug 17, 2012 - 10:46AM

    E1=Energy: Electricit and Fuel cars are western innovations therefore Haram! Shut down all electrical generators, appliances, cars, motorbikes, trucks and go back to our roots, hard labor, camels and horse back riding. Satisfaction guaranteed.

    E2=Economy: Another abstract term, western innovation-Haram! Go back to the barter system.

    E3=Education: Pakistan is blessed with Madaris, they shall provide us with all that we need to know, no need to be influenced by western ideas.

    Problem solved, we shall live in eternal peace!

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  • Prometheus
    Aug 17, 2012 - 12:00PM

    PML-N’s three ‘Es’ stand for:

    Party’s E = Establishment created & still supported through their representative in Nisar
    People’s E = Elusive in promises…Where is the money for “Qarz Utaro Mulk Sanwaro’
    Leaderships E = Exit incase of trouble to London

    People have had enough of them and its a crime to vote for PPP/PMLN knowing their behind closed doors annexure and them being two sides of the same coin!

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  • Muhammad Amir Iqbal
    Aug 17, 2012 - 12:30PM

    Yes PMLN will achieve three Es in only one year of their reigne because the majority of the people in PMLN are the businessmen and know the problen faced by the country in absence of three Es. A leader having business mind will cope up the all obstacles to the business

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  • sartaj hussain
    Aug 17, 2012 - 12:33PM

    please send me a copy of this oppinion published in your paper

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  • Ali
    Aug 17, 2012 - 3:42PM

    Typical PML N rubbish. Recently the hair brained Nawaz claimed that if he had not been thrown out in 1998 Pakistan would have been a tiger economy circa 2002. When he was kicked out if power in 98 we were bankrupt.
    His economic policy involved having Pakistan railways carry scrap metal to punjab from Karachi for free. The losses the railways incurred were huge.
    Precious foreign reserves were used to buy taxis.
    He built some motorways, Musharraf built more.
    He built one run of the river dam which is far more than the PPP but not enough.
    No attention was paid to education. This laptop scheme, sudden interest is just because of the PTI.

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  • Mountie
    Aug 17, 2012 - 6:16PM

    Really Dr. Saab? Such a bias opinion. We all know you have “feelings” for PTI. How about ending corruption in 90 days? saying no to America? PML-N three E’s are very realistic. Energy is definitely the biggest issue which will help us achieve the next E of economy. Education should definitely be a priority

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  • Gujranwalian
    Aug 18, 2012 - 5:36AM

    We punjabis have full confidence in PMLN and the leadership of mian muhammad nawaz sharif.

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  • Zahra
    Aug 18, 2012 - 4:45PM

    @FromPakistan:
    excellent analysis. I think you are too naive to understand what the man is saying. He has drawn some nice comparisons and any intelligent person can see what policy he has in mind. He writes regularly in this column so read his other articles on policy analysis, advice etc..don’t comment here just for the sake of it!

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  • Aug 23, 2012 - 8:17AM

    Apart from party manifestos, I believe energy crises can be solved by utilizing solar thermal energy as Pakistan is blessed with sunny days most of the year and has one of the strongest potentials for utilizing it. Much of the development can be done locally. I think if government is interested these solar thermal power stations can be made within two years. Every district can have its own solar thermal power station and people can pay for it to their local district level governments which may be run by chamber of commerce and industry of that city or local government of that district. It is one time investment and running/maintenance cost will be very low, making electricity rates comparable to electricity by hydral power stations.

    If we see the potential of our country we can utilize windmills and solar thermal power stations to produce cheap and environmental friendly energy.

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  • Amjad
    Aug 25, 2012 - 4:13PM

    @hmm:
    hahahahah as always when someone question you ,start pointing fingers at others. nice strategy by PPP n PMLN. Never answer questions asked and never accept your faults just put the blame on some one else.

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  • Amjad
    Aug 25, 2012 - 4:13PM

    @Mountie:
    and how about those who have a “FEELING” for PMLN and PPP ? did you ever bother to write the same word while commenting on some anti PTI blogs/op-ed/columns ? EVER ??Recommend

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