The completion and launch of the metro bus service in Lahore is a culmination of the outstanding five-year tenure of the PML-N government in Punjab. Led brilliantly by Mian Shahbaz Sharif, the PML-N government has shown once again that given the will, sincerity, commitment and competence, the government can deliver even in very trying circumstances.
The financial position left over by the previous Punjab government was pathetic to say the least. The provincial government’s exchequer was almost bankrupt as a result of extremely poor financial management by the PML-Q government during 2002-2007. However, the performance of the present Punjab government has been remarkable. It truly stands out when compared with the performance of other provinces and the federal government.
For any country to have consistent and sustainable growth, it is imperative to invest in education. Precisely for that reason, Punjab’s education sector received the highest priority. Overall education spending increased by over 900 per cent over the last five years. But it is not just the significant increase in education spending; it is the quality of investment that is more important. Through these initiatives, students from poor families can now hope to study at institutions like LUMS, NUST and FAST.
Some initiatives in the education sector include the establishment of Danish Schools where top quality education is being provided free of charge to students from low-income families and the establishment of the Punjab Educational Endowment Fund through which monetary assistance is provided to students in need. Other initiatives include the establishment of degree colleges, a highly successful laptop scheme, the establishment of the Information Technology University in Lahore and five new women’s universities.
In health, the following major initiatives were taken that completely transformed the sector: the establishment of medical colleges in Sahiwal, Gujrat, DG Khan, Sialkot and Gujranwala, the Institute of Cardiology and Urology in Rawalpindi, a 410-bed hospital in Bahawalpur and a 300-bed hospital in Shahdara and state-of-the-art mobile health units. Overall spending in the health sector shows a 550 per cent increase.
Political parties have criticised the PML-N of focusing entirely on Lahore and ignoring south Punjab. As the financial numbers demonstrate, this is a completely false allegation. Total spending in south Punjab increased from Rs53 billion during 2002-2007 to Rs292 billion during the last five years. In 2007, south Punjab had an allocation of 15 per cent of the total annual development plan which increased to 32 per cent in 2012-13 — the highest allocation in the last 50 years.
Developments in other areas include the Ashiana Housing Scheme for workers, writing off loans for poor widows, setting up of model police stations and introduction of performance efficiency allowance for low-grade police officials, the Green Tractor Scheme, construction of the Marala Hydel Power Station, rehabilitation and modernisation of barrages, the construction of 11 small dams, widening of roads and an increased budget for water supply and sanitation from Rs13 billion to Rs43 billion.
All of the above speaks volumes about the Punjab government’s performance. This has been achieved in spite of the fact that the main levers of growth are with the federal government. As a result of the outstanding performance by the Punjab government under the leadership of Shahbaz Sharif, Punjab is now truly a model of development for other provinces. All of this was achieved with the highest level of transparency and zero tolerance for corruption, which — in an environment prevailing at the federal level and other provinces — can only be termed miraculous.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 7th, 2013.