One of the reasons why Pakistan does not meet its development goals is that there is a lack of continuity relative to carrying forward into a new administration the programmes of its predecessor. Thus projects that are of national importance might be left at the wayside because they are either politically inconvenient or simply not popular with the incoming government, or the fiscal imperatives have shifted, leaving a lot of people high and dry. One such instance relates to the 25,000 trainees enrolled in the Waseela-e-Rozgar scheme that was initiated by the Zardari Administration. This is a free education and vocational training programme that is a sub-set of the Benazir Income Support Programme that currently keeps the heads of millions of, primarily poor, women’s heads above water.
The government has refused to pay, for two years, the dues of the service providers that resource the scheme, to their considerable detriment. These are private sector trainers who have themselves trained at their own expense. The Rs6,000 a month stipend paid to the trainees have been stopped, as have the payments to those contracted to train them and the enterprise now teeters on the brink of extinction. The trainers took loans to finance their own training and these loans cannot now be paid and many are in flight from their creditors. The trainees are in limbo not knowing if the programme is to live or die; and those tasked with its administration are tight-lipped beyond saying that matters will be sorted out in due course, as well as nebulous references to ‘ghost’ service providers that are possibly to be investigated by NAB. There can be no justification for penalising once again the poorest of the poor, who are seeking to better themselves. This is small-minded and smacks of political preferment, punishing a group of people for no greater crime than that they benefit from a scheme initiated by political rivals. Small wonder that we miss every long-term development goal.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2015.
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