One of the most trenchant criticisms of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has been its reliance on feel-good sloganeering over the nitty-gritty of policy details. The announcement of the party’s economic plan was meant to change all that although if the early details are anything to go by, this is not going to happen. One of the fundamental mistakes the PTI makes is to treat corruption as a personal rather than structural issue. It simply thinks that getting rid of the current crop of politicians and replacing those with themselves will lead to an automatic halt in corruption, a view that is at stark odds with the reality of Pakistan. Thus, when the party claims that it will recover two trillion rupees by bringing an end to corruption, that figure can safely be ignored as the product of the PTI’s imagination.
Much of the PTI’s economic blueprint is aspirational rather than realistic. It is to say that the cost of producing electricity will be reduced, even though not a single politician in Pakistan has any control over the international price of oil. The same goes for the promise to bring an end to the circular debt issue although the PTI is unable to explain where the money will come from in order for this to happen. The party has also focused on the symbolic rather than the practical. It is politically popular to say that the state will save money by slashing the budgets of the president, prime minister, chief minister and governors’ houses by 50 per cent but these savings will barely make a dent in our deficit. The PTI also wants Pakistan to make do without foreign loans although how this will not lead to instant bankruptcy is again left unexplained.
Many of the proposals also betray an inexcusable ignorance about politics and economics. It is well and good to say that the education and health budgets will be substantially increased but these are subjects that were devolved to the provinces under the Eighteenth Amendment and so will not be under the purview of the centre. The PTI also wants to increase government spending in many sectors, reduce unemployment substantially while bringing down inflation at the same time, which is something that would break all laws of economics if it ever happened. That ultimately is the problem with the PTI: it ignores reality for rhetoric.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2012.
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