The Sindh government long ago ran out of feet to shoot itself in, but nevertheless appears able to regenerate multiple feet in order to continue the string of self-inflicted wounds. The pre-election period is generating some frantic activity on the part of the government to use any money it can lay its hands on to distribute as quickly as possible in order to polish its vote bank. Having cut the funding for around 400 projects by as much as 60 percent because of slow progress, attention has switched to quick-ish fixes. Enter the rarely heard of Executive Committee of the National Economic Council. Ecnec on Wednesday approved Rs 33.6 billion-worth of the second phase of the Prime Minister’s National Health Programme as an expansion of free public health services nationwide.
Aside the obvious political implications a project such as this that has the capacity to impact on the lives of everybody, deserves support and ought to be exempt from the partisanship of petty politics. At the meeting the Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa governments gave an undertaking to expand the programme in their provinces but Sindh declined saying that the Sindh government was unable to make any contribution to the health programme. Health services in Sindh are threadbare at best and virtually nonexistent in large parts of the province. Turning it down by pleading poverty is barely credible.
The long and the short of it is more likely to be that the Sindh PPP government is unlikely to want to be seen to support a PML-N project with an election knocking at the door. The province of K-P was able to bite the bullet despite being held by the PTI, and that in the knowledge that the PML-N is going to make electoral capital out of the scheme which is exactly why the money to support it was freed up in the first place. And the people of Sindh? Let them eat cake.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 9th, 2018.
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