Govt fail­ures

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE -

After a dif­fi­cult two-year run for the PTI govern­ment, the op­po­si­tion par­ties' state­ments have listed a num­ber of fail­ures of the rul­ing set-up. The score­card is a mixed one at best, de­spite the tall claims made by cabi­net min­is­ters and as­sorted spokes­peo­ple. Lead­ers of op­po­si­tion par­ties such as Shah­baz Sharif and Bi­lawal Bhutto-Zar­dari have is­sued state­ments list­ing a num­ber of fail­ures of the govern­ment, while some polls have shown am­biva­lent re­sponses that be­lie the ex­tremes pointed out by both the govern­ment and the op­po­si­tion.

It may be un­fair to judge a govern­ment at the two-year mark of its five-year man­date, but it does pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity to look at some re­cur­ring pat­terns and trends that have marked the per­for­mance of Prime Min­is­ter Im­ran Khan's ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The PTI hob­bled into power car­ry­ing the heavy bur­den of its own lofty rhetoric and ex­pan­sive prom­ises. That bur­den did not mix well with the in­ex­pe­ri­ence of wield­ing power. The first year was there­fore marked less by de­ci­sive and bold ac­tion and more by shaky gov­er­nance bruised by ill-thoughtout de­ci­sion-mak­ing and fre­quent pol­icy re­ver­sals. The han­dling of the econ­omy - touted as the strong­est point of the PTI - was soon judged ad­versely and the team re­placed mid­stream. The PTI govern­ment strug­gled to de­fine a broad vi­sion that could be sculpted into ac­tion­able pol­icy through clar­ity of ideas and di­rec­tion.

While try­ing to do ev­ery­thing - from the mun­dane to the sub­lime - the govern­ment ended up with a vague agenda that promised a lot but was un­able to de­liver specifics. The Balakot in­ci­dent and Pak­istan's cal­i­brated and ma­ture re­sponse to In­dian ag­gres­sion was per­haps Prime Min­is­ter Im­ran Khan's finest hour. This was a pat­tern that has man­i­fested it­self in sta­ble and bal­anced for­eign pol­icy and han­dling of ex­ter­nal is­sues.

How­ever, on the do­mes­tic front, the trend has been the op­po­site: lack of con­sis­tency in pol­icy lead­ing to gov­er­nance prob­lems like sharp price hikes; a po­lit­i­cally drenched ap­proach to ac­count­abil­ity that has dented the cred­i­bil­ity of the process; and a hap­haz­ard fo­cus on is­sues re­sult­ing in the ne­glect of crit­i­cal struc­tural re­form that was sup­posed to re­flect the PTI's man­i­festo. Such weak­nesses have been most vis­i­ble in Pun­jab, which is iron­i­cal be­cause the coun­try's largest prov­ince was ex­pected to be the PTI's crown jewel.

Me­dia space has also shrunk un­der the PTI's watch. This con­tin­ues to be a dis­turb­ing trend, but the govern­ment's ap­proach amounts to a de­nial of the prob­lem. On two fronts, how­ever, the PTI govern­ment can claim due credit: the suc­cess­ful han­dling of Covid-19 that has brought the pan­demic un­der con­trol; and the Eh­saas pro­gramme that has strength­ened the so­cial safety net­work orig­i­nally con­ceived by the PPP through the Be­nazir In­come Sup­port Pro­gramme. The NCOC has been a suc­cess story, and it man­aged the Covid19 cri­sis with clar­ity and ef­fi­ciency. If such ef­fi­ciency can be repli­cated in other ar­eas of gov­er­nance, the PTI could cer­tainly im­prove its per­for­mance in its third year.

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