In a step that is seen as preparation for general elections in 2018, the federal government drew up its developmental plan for the next two years. On July 29, after a meeting lasting several hours, a framework was devised for infrastructural and energy sector investments. It is a plan typical of the PML-N, which prefers to associate itself with big budget projects focused on connecting one part of the country with another. Throughout its various tenures, the party has laid out an ever-expanding network of roads and highways across Pakistan and the current plan maps the details for several more like the Karachi-Lahore Motorway and the Hyderabad-Sukkur Motorway amongst others. Murree, where the meeting was held, is to get a facelift along with several other parts of Punjab. This too is typical of the PML-N government which likes to test drive its projects in its home base before exporting them to other parts of the country if budgets allow and other provinces manage to make enough noise. The prime minister also intends to undertake a tour of the country where he will review ongoing projects and announce new ones in the energy and healthcare sectors.
So far no mention has been made regarding where the funds for these projects will come from or whether the government also intends to include the education sector in its grand plan for development. Healthcare and education projects often end up being scuppered in favour of other sectors when there is a shortage of funds. Additionally, the focus of development projects tends to be on the power base of ruling parties and since the PML-N is often in government, we are left with a vast number of underserved districts where there are few roads, hospitals or schools. While superficially connecting the country with roads, these developmental policies have created divisions along ethnic and geographic lines. There is resentment and anger, a result of decades of neglect and suffering. The government’s current development plan, which includes some projects for other provinces is welcome but it needs to be implemented with careful consideration of budgetary requirements and a balanced approach that is needed from an unbiased federal government.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2016.
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