An ambitious economic development plan for Punjab that ex-CM Shehbaz Sharif had set in motion three years back has reportedly failed to meet its targets. It has, on the contrary, led to major regional disparities and a sense of deprivation among people of neglected districts.
Announcing its three-year (2015-18) growth strategy in 2015, Shehbaz had set some ambitious development targets thought to ensure unprecedented economic prosperity with growth in manufacturing and export industry. The targets he had set out to achieve by end of 2018 included an 8% economic growth, increase in private sector investment to the tune of $17.5 billion, creation of one million jobs annually, imparting training to two million graduates in different skills, and an annual increase of 15% in exports volume.
A recent report examining different aspects of the development plan maintained that most of the growth projections were not based on historical evidences. Deviating from its actual targets, the development plan instead focused on major urban schemes in northern Punjab, especially Lahore. This naturally neglected already underdeveloped districts of southern Punjab giving its people a sense of alienation and deprivation.
Besides, lopsided diversion of public money in large transport and other major infrastructure projects, again mostly in the cities of northern Punjab, further added to regional disparities. Contrary to the tall claims, the Punjab government failed to meet its GRP growth target of 8% set for 2018. A recent critique of the so-called growth strategy during the Shehbaz Sharif’s tenure maintains that “the previous strategy development process did not generate the provincial GRP estimates … the sectoral growth trajectories and expected contributions were also not available due to the same reason. This restricted the understanding of the departments as to what contributions, and thus investments, were required on their part to attain the growth target.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 27th, 2019.
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