The government might have “significantly overstated” Punjab’s growth rate. This was revealed at the launch of the fifth annual, The State of Economy: The Punjab Story, report of the Institute of Public Policy at Beaconhouse National University on Wednesday at the Lahore Grande. Institute of Public Policy Vice Chairman and Dean of School of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Dr Hafiz Ahmed Pasha said Punjab’s economy had a slower growth rate over the past decade compared to the rest of the country due to the scarcity of irrigation water and the energy shortfall. He was speaking at the launch of the report.
Dr Pasha said while the economy had done poorly throughout the country, Punjab had done far worse. From 2002-03 to 2009-10, Dr Pasha said, the agricultural sector in Punjab had only a 3 per cent growth rate as opposed to a 5 per cent growth rate in the rest of the country.
Dr Pasha said that from 2006-07 to 2009-2010, gas consumption had gone up by 14 per cent in the rest of the country but in the Punjab it had declined by 13 per cent.
The report states that there was a decline in “regional inequality” in all districts of the province, the trend being most pronounced in provision of social services. “Despite there being demands for a new province, the Punjab has the least regional inequality amongst the provinces,” said Dr Pasha. However, he said, a separate south Punjab province would be “food sufficient.”
The report goes on to state that regional inequality had increased in terms of some social indicators including secondary education, sanitation, health services and water supply. The report says that with limited access to infrastructure and social services districts in south Punjab are less developed, a phenomenon termed a “classic North-South” divide by Dr Pasha.
Beaconhouse National University Vice Chancellor Sartaj Aziz said long term projects in hydel power should be taken up seriously to limit energy dependency on foreign sources. Aziz said with the country entering the election year it was essential that such reports be used to establish policy guidelines for the current as well as the prospective government.
LUMS pro-chancellor Syed Babar Ali said that over the past several years, the country’s economic policy had never addressed the needs of the common man to ensure his welfare. Ali said scholarly critique should be used by policy makers to strengthen institutions. “Never put an inefficient person in charge of an efficient person” said Ali.
Planning and Development Department secretary Ali Tahir expressed dissatisfaction with the “methodology” used in the compilation of the report. Tahir said that urban development paved way for economic growth of any country and hence growth in cities, like Lahore, Multan and the like, was of immense significance.
“The year 2012 promises to be yet another difficult year economically’, said Dr Aisha Ghaus Pasha, the director of the Institute of Public Policy. Dr Pasha said Pakistan, particularly for Punjab, would be facing a period of “great financial difficulties.” She identified lack of political stability and shortage of energy as hurdles in economic growth. She said there had been a growth in the rural economy along with an increase in revenue collection showing the ‘resilience’ of the economy.
“Good governance and zero tolerance for corruption will tackle the economic crisis in the next 3 to 4 years,” said MNA Ahsan Iqbal. Iqbal said the debate about a new province in Punjab should be set aside until there was greater stability adding that a new province was bound to demand a new “NFC award and a water accord.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 3rd, 2012.