PTI provided the first 100 days Agenda for “Naya Pakistan” on May 28, 2018. The six themes are to transform governance, strengthen the federation, revitalise economic growth, uplift agriculture and conserve water, revolutionise social services and ensure Pakistan’s national security. So far six task forces, three committees, holding of cabinet meetings and changes in bureaucracy have taken place. Sadly, the agenda is overburdened with reforms rather than a well thought out, action plan of implementation with supporting data to steer the economy in the right direction. It caters to federal, provincial and local levels but the jurisdictional responsibilities have not been bifurcated. The problem is not so much with Imran Khan’s vision rather the team has not been able to properly reflect PTI’s agenda and the national priorities in a well-researched document.
At the Federal level the key activities in the agenda include civil service reforms, judicial reforms, reduced taxation for manufacturing, energy reforms, reduction of circular debt, improving business environment, autonomy for NAB and recovery of looted wealth, FBR and State Owned Enterprises’ reforms, construction of Diamer-Bhasha dam, creation of a South Punjab province and transformation of CPEC. There is no mention of the economy, national highways, ports, airports, shipping, telecommunication, stock exchanges, national debt, foreign reserves, federal budget, regulatory Authorities and Bureau of Statistics surveys, especially on poverty. The finance and economic action plan is extremely weak. The areas covered at federal level are long term and do not directly address the problems of the poor.
The PTI’s massive provincial agenda covers replication of KP Police Act 2017 and LG system, Green Growth Agenda, labour policy, creation of 10 million jobs and 5 million housing units through private sector, FATA’s integration, transformation plan for Karachi, poverty alleviation efforts in poor districts, conversion of government guest houses, tourism, agriculture policy, water conservation, livestock, health and education blueprints, expansion of BISP and Sehat Insaf card, women’s development plan, criminal justice reform and clean drinking water. All these activities have been devolved to the provinces after the 18th amendment. Instead of one size fits all, it would have been best to have separate 100 days agendas for each province. In Sindh, PPP probably has its own 100 days agenda. What is the 100 days agenda for the residents of Islamabad?
Being reform driven, the agenda fails to include any important projects that the PTI plans to initiate or complete on-going ones. The over emphasis on open ended reforms and lack of concrete commitments clearly indicates a limited understanding of the critical issues facing the country and the inability to propose any solutions or the way. It seems like a bureaucratic agenda prepared by consultants for donor’s consumption.
The agenda reflects activities starting within the first 100 days but provides no targets. This makes it difficult to assign jurisdictional responsibility, plan, implement or monitor the 100 days agenda. Perhaps it is just an agenda and not a real plan. There is a need for a “Results Based” plan which provides a clear roadmap of when the reforms and actions will be completed and notified. In the first 100 days it is important that PTI publishes the baseline of the key economic indicators in the Economic Survey at the time when they assumed office and their yearly or quarterly targets over their 5 years term. This will be the real test.
In the end what is the poor people’s agenda? Their foremost priority is clean drinking water, solid waste management, sewerage and sanitation system, health, education, paved streets, reduction in load shedding, transport, security, inflation and above all a job to be able to meet the basic needs of the family. In these areas PTI is yet to announce its blueprints. The lack of concrete actions, supporting data, expected results and financing show that a lot of homework is required before these activities get off the ground. Expectations for improvement in service delivery or in the life of the poor are low.
To support the process of reforms, Imran Khan plans to create a small team of reform leaders, champions and experts to help achieve his vision of transforming the country, as part of a high-performance reform unit in his office. At present the reform effort is disjointed with the task forces and committees working and reporting independently. Moving the reform agenda forward is a complex task and requires a lot of time, effort and resources. A small team cannot deliver on such a vast agenda of reform and change.
PTI can learn from the experience of National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB) which was established by General Musharraf in 1999 and was headed by a Chairman with the rank of a Minister appointed by and reporting to the PM. It comprised a number of Members. Each reform area had a think tank (similar to task force) comprising Government officials and consultants. It was funded by Government with consultants financed by donor agencies. Carrying out reforms through the Ministries and Departments is not easy as the staff is generally opposed to any change. Initially the reform agenda proceeded smoothly as it was managed through the Governors, Military staff and Chief Ministers. Later with the restoration of democracy it became more difficult to get the provinces to accept NRB’s ideas and models. NRB embarked on a huge agenda but was able to complete only the local government system, Police Order 2002, Election reforms and NFC award in 8 years. Civil Service reform was left unfinished. It was an effective institution of change as it had the full backing of the PM and General Musharraf. PTI may consider a similar institutional approach as Imran Khan will not have the time to oversee or manage the process.
Trump tweets “No matter how much I accomplish during the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days, & it has been a lot, media will kill!”. John F. Kennedy said “All this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days, nor in the life of this administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin!” PTI will probably rely on both statements.
The writer is a former member of the National Reconstruction Bureau and an international development consultant.