The PML-N finally comes up with its election manifesto — albeit only 20 days ahead of the July 25 vote. The promised to-do list shows a shift in the party’s priorities — from infrastructure development to raising the human capital. The former ruling party has all along been criticised by its rivals — the PTI in particular — for ‘too much focus’ on mega-development projects, ‘much to the neglect’ of the common man’s basic necessities of education, health and employment. Branding the N-League’s ‘love for humongous showcase projects’ as a huge burden on a depleting economy, up came the counter-narrative of investing in human resource. Whether this narrative, spearheaded by Imran Khan, has caught the people’s fancy cannot be said with certainly, but it does seem to have affected the electoral approach of the PML-N.
Focusing thus far on infrastructure development — by generating power, building motorways and upgrading urban transport — the PML-N, while unveiling its manifesto, says “… now we can focus on empowering the poor by boosting investment on education and health, creation of jobs, agro-industrial development”. The party appears to have succumbed to the popular and seemingly winnable approach of promising investment in people even though it persistently pursued the policy of infrastructure development since coming to power for the first time in 1992.
And this comes despite many a global research speaking of the critical role infrastructure plays in pursuit of achieving and maintaining high human development. A mere paved road has the proven potential to raise school enrolment, reduce vegetable and fruit prices by cutting travel time to the market, save precious foreign exchange by slashing the government’s petrol bill, and averting deadly road accidents. Likewise, electrifying households weighs heavily on human development index. And do we have the room to over-emphasise the importance of mass transit mechanism for a big city!
Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2018.
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