I voted for PML(N) at the general elections last year after careful consideration. In my view, PPP had discredited itself because of gross mismanagement of the country’s affairs, particularly its economy, and allegations of massive corruption. PTI promised a great deal but its manifesto lacked substance and Imran Khan had no experience of running a government, apart from being immature and naive. His more recent reliance on agitational politics as a short cut to power has merely confirmed my apprehensions about him. The worldview of the religious parties was, generally speaking, out of tune with global realities and the requirements of progress in the modern era. So I was left with no choice but to vote for PML(N).

My vote for PML(N) was also partly based on the sympathy factor because of the unconstitutional overthrow of your government by Pervez Musharraf in October 1999, besides being an expression of appreciation for your unambiguous support to the lawyers’ movement for the restoration of the superior judiciary. I was aware of your past failings, especially disregard for merit, in running the affairs of the government. But I was hopeful that you would have become wiser following the long years of forced exile and that, if elected Prime Minister, you would focus on providing good governance to the people of Pakistan while following the principles of merit, honesty and accountability.

I regret to say, Mr. Prime Minister, that your government’s performance over the past 16 months or so has fallen far short of those high expectations. You started well by following a consensual approach in allowing the formation of non-PML(N) governments in KPK and Balochistan. But soon thereafter your government lost enthusiasm and dynamism in the provision of good governance to the people. Your choice of advisers and close associates betrays disregard of the principles of merit and integrity and an inclination to surround yourself with sycophants. Your government has failed to come to grips with the energy crisis. The fundamental economic indicators have not shown any marked improvement. The country badly needs economic, administrative, taxation, judicial and social reforms. Your government has not taken even the first step towards those reforms. Corruption and mismanagement are rife in government departments. The people expected you to devote yourself fully to the resolution of national problems. You have instead been undertaking unnecessary visits abroad, your recent visit to New York to attend the UN General Assembly session being the latest example.

You are the Prime Minister of a developing country with a per capita income of US$ 1386. In other words, the average monthly income of a Pakistani whom you represent is Rs.11781/-. As long as you hold the position of the Prime Minister, your personal and official living style should reflect this harsh reality. Unfortunately, this is not the case at present. Your lifestyle is not becoming of a Prime Minister of a poor country like Pakistan where mothers have been forced to commit suicide because they could not feed their children due to poverty. You must, therefore, adopt austerity in your own lifestyle and make it an essential condition for your ministers, advisers, parliamentary secretaries, special assistants, and senior bureaucrats. Excessive perks and privileges must be immediately withdrawn. For instance, how do these senior bureaucrats justify the continued use of official cars while they are at the same time getting exorbitant conveyance allowances? You must also cut foreign visits down. When you have to undertake a foreign visit for unavoidable reasons, you should do so with as much economy of expenditure as possible.

While every possible effort must be made to avoid wasteful expenditure in the running of the government and to put an end to corruption, it is equally important to enhance the efficiency of government departments so as to strengthen law and order, dispense quick and easy justice, accelerate economic growth, overcome the energy crisis, improve health and education facilities, narrow the growing divide between the rich and the poor, and widen the social security net to help the people in low income brackets in making both ends meet. It should be the foremost responsibility of the federal and provincial governments to ensure that every child of school going age has access to free educational facilities up to higher secondary level. Education up to secondary level must be made compulsory for all children. Special incentives should be devised to help the children of the poor in attending schools.

In a knowledge based modern economy, it is essential that people are well-educated, especially in science and technology, and duly trained in the skills required by different economic sectors. Our education sector must cater for these requirements. It is shameful that far from meeting these standards, our literacy percentage is as low as 60% according to government claims. Currently, the national expenditure on education is only 2% of GNP. It should be raised much above the UNESCO-set norm of 4% of GNP in the interest of a prosperous future for the country. Similarly, the national expenditure on health should be raised far above the current low level of 0.4% of GNP to provide essential health care facilities to the people.It is not surprising that under the current circumstances Pakistan has become the centre of polio with most polio cases in the world being reported from our country. India has been free of polio for the last three years.

Due to the sheer mismanagement of our economy, our economic growth rate was as low as 4.1% during the year 2013-14. This low GDP growth rate is not sufficient for lowering unemployment and enhancing the welfare of the people. Such a low growth rate would also leave Pakistan far behind the rest of the international community in the race for economic development. As any economist worth his salt would tell you, we must raise our national savings and investment rates from the low level of 12.9% and 14% of GDP respectively in 2013-14 to at least 30% of GDP to accelerate our economic growth rate significantly. This necessitates the adoption of austerity by the whole country. However, you, Mr. Prime Minister, and the rest of the Pakistani political and bureaucratic elite must set an example for people to follow.

In short, while the strengthening of the democratic system is essential for Pakistan’s security and economic well-being, it is not sufficient. It is equally important to provide good governance to the people, put an end to corruption, and accelerate the rate of economic growth. So far, the federal and provincial governments have fallen short of people’s expectations in all of these spheres. The need of the hour is a well-considered programme of economic, administrative, judicial, and social reforms to bring about necessary changes in the country and set it on the path of rapid economic progress. These reforms must be planned and implemented on a fast track basis. Your leisurely style of governance, Mr. Prime Minister, is quite unacceptable to the people. You must know that the failure of your government to perform will force people to look for other alternatives.

The writer is a retired ambassador and the president of the Lahore Council for World Affairs.