- Promises galore, performance in short supply
After failing to fulfil the promises of providing 10 million jobs and five million houses, Prime Minister Imran Khan has come up with yet another unimplementable commitment. The so called Ehsaas programme, we are told, will turn Pakistan into a welfare state. As the PM put it, the programme will ameliorate the lot of “the extreme poor, orphans, widows, the homeless, the disabled, those who risk medical impoverishment, the jobless, poor farmers, labourers, the sick and undernourished; students from low-income backgrounds and poor women and elderly citizens”. Does Mr Khan realise that the motley category could comprise tens of millions of people and the fulfilment of the promise would entail tens of billions of rupees? Add to this the PM’s promise to enact a constitutional amendment to legally bind the government to provide food, shelter and basic social services to all the citizens, and the requirement for funds goes skyrocketing. Where are the finances to sustain the cloud-cuckoo-land called the welfare state, which only highly industrialised societies can hope to enter? The truth test will come soon when the government announces the budget. In case it is really serious, it will need to raise allocations to health, education and social sector in general. Does the PM know that development expenditures are the first to be axed after his government opts for the IMF programme with austerity, stabilisation and cuts in growth rate as its driving agents? Keeping in view the steep rise in unemployment caused by the reduction in growth rate, it would take a whole term with 7 per cent growth, which is nowhere in sight, to start providing jobs on the required scale.
Imran Khan claims that the labour pension has been increased from Rs5,250 per month to Rs6,500 through the Employees Old-Age Benefit Institution. The total number of Pakistan’s labour force is reportedly 57.2 million. About 43 per cent of this is involved in agriculture and gets no pension. Of the 20.3 per cent of labour employed in industry a large section works on contract or on daily wages, and is deprived of pension. Only an infinitesimally small section of the labour force would thus benefit from the rise. Or does the PM intend to make the entire labour force pensionable?