Every time a new government arrives in Islamabad, it tries, without fail, to start from scratch, wiping out all that has been done in the immediate past. Invariably, the newcomers set up committees of experts to identify immediate, medium-term and long-term problems and suggest their solutions. While this is being done (which normally takes three to six months to complete) the civil service starts drawing its usual rings around the newcomers, leading them by their nose back to the same old lanes and by-lanes of corruption, inefficiency and inertia. And by the time the reports of the committees come in, the rut would have already set in and the government would be too busy firefighting to spare a look-see at these thick volumes of panacea.
I only hope, this time, the incoming government does not waste time in reinventing the wheel. It had ruled more than half of Pakistan for the last five years and has, during this period, managed, with a degree of success, to look after the economy of a province which spawns almost two-thirds of the country’s GDP. Twice before as well, though for shorter periods, the same team had ruled the country and Punjab. So, the team comes in with the required experience and is presumably well aware of problems that it would be facing in Islamabad and Lahore, and also presumably after having done the required homework. If at all, it could set up a permanent think tank within the PML-N but sans the party’s political influence and staffed with independent-minded experts for conducting research and surveys to keep the leadership informed about the actual ground situation to help it in policy formulations and their implementation.
This think tank could also be assigned the task of going through the numerous reports prepared on various issues by committees set up by previous governments gathering dust in the Planning Commission. For example, there is a thick volume on energy, which was prepared in the mid-1980s by the USAID. There is another equally thick volume on agriculture, which was prepared during the fag end of the same decade by Sartaj Aziz, the current adviser to the incoming government on economy and foreign affairs. And there is also one prepared by the German Agency for Technical Co-operation (GTZ) on exploiting the river waters of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) for producing economically affordable electricity and for storing irrigation water.
The GTZ has identified potential sites, numbering around 150 on the tributaries of the Chitral River, Swat River, Indus and Kunhar River, plus on Kabul, Kohat, Kurram, Tochi, Chitral, Panjkoora and Gabral, each of which could produce 50 MW of electricity, totalling a capacity of 18,698 MW. Due to shortage of funds in the public sector, detailed feasibility studies could not be carried out for all those sites so far.
The incoming government of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in K-P should take a closer look at this GTZ report and try to encourage the local governments, which it plans to set up in the not-too-distant future, to try to implement the identified power-cum-irrigation projects on a war-footing. The PTI chief, Imran Khan, is a well-known face in the rich world and has a proven international track record as a successful fundraiser. It should not be too difficult for him to invite foreign investors, including successful businessmen of Pakistani origin in the UK, the US and Europe to study the feasibility reports of these projects. Already, it seems the drone attacks are going to taper off in the not-too-distant a future, and on the other hand, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan seem to have scaled down their attacks to almost zero-level providing, therefore, an environment attractive for investors, both local and foreign, to take a calculated plunge in K-P for profits. The country has been providing electricity to Fata and Pata almost free of cost all these years. This additional power generation capacity and that, too, economically affordable would not only ease the pressure on Wapda but it would also boost agro-based industries in K-P and help the province turn into a major supplier of food and consumer goods to the border areas of Afghanistan, thus firming up the much-needed stronger commercial relations with the neighbouring country.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2013.
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