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Analysing the implementation of political manifestos

Since 1950, Pakistan has undergone significant political changes, alternating between military and civilian rules. After 1990, the major political parties like PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz), PPP (Pakistan People’s Party), and PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) have effectively heralded their manifestos to promise revolutionary reforms, particularly in areas like energy. Carrying out these reforms has been an area of controversy among various experts. Manifestos are crucial for enlightening post-election direction for a government’s policies and serve as a promise of responsibility to the voters. In Pakistan, there is an urgent need for reforms in energy, education, health, and governance, forming manifestos a crucial roadmap for voters to evaluate the priorities of different political parties.

The energy sector has attracted significant interest and vows due to its substantial impact on economic development and stability. Manifestos face numerous challenges during implementation, including political instability, economic constraints, institutional capacity issues, and shifting priorities upon taking office. Partial fulfilment of manifestos results from internal party dynamics and the nation’s broader socio-political and economic environment. Despite the good intentions declared in manifestos, the execution of pledged reforms faces obstacles from diverse factors in turbulent political and economic environment.

The PML-N, a well-known political party with considerable political influence, has held power on several occasions since the 1990s. The party is far and wide known for its focus on business and economy related reforms. During its election campaigns, it has consistently highlighted the importance of infrastructure development, energy sector reforms, and economic revitalisation. The party promised to tackle the energy crisis by implementing various solutions, including expanding power generation, and incorporating renewable and sustainable energy sources.

In its 2013 and 2018 manifestos, the PML-N promised to tackle the energy sector by ending loadshedding, enhancing power plant efficiencies, addressing energy mix, and upgrading the transmission infrastructure. Even though their first efforts helped, experts have highlighted shortcomings in their focus on renewable energy and in handling issues like transmission & distribution losses and circular debt. These deficiencies raise questions about the long-term sustainability of their schemes.

During their office, the PML-N implemented infrastructure projects like power plants and motorways. However, as stated in their manifesto, they faced challenges in fulfilling vows related to the power sector. Even though they increased power generation capacity and decreased power outages, the effort was not sustainable and affordable, with no governance reforms, tariff rationalisation, or losses reduction.

The increase in circular debt remained a worry for the financial stability of the power sector between PML-N tenure of 2013-18. With the shift towards renewable energy on a global scale, the party’s focus on coal and RLNG raised concerns about environmental and energy security. Relying on imported fuels has led to questions about the long-term viability of policies, given the unpredictable nature of global energy prices. Later in 2021-23 these projects proved too expensive due to spike in RLNG and coal prices.

With a strong focus on social justice and democracy, the PPP has prioritised energy sector reforms, poverty alleviation, and addressing social inequality. To address differences in energy consumption between urban and rural areas, the party’s manifestos focus on expanding energy sources, supporting renewable energy, public-private partnerships and improving electricity access in rural regions.

A thorough evaluation of the PPP’s administration between 2008 and 2013 shows varied outcomes in fulfilling these promises. Despite efforts to increase power generation and promote renewable energy, challenges emerged due to funding gaps, delays, and reliance on traditional energy sources. The party faced obstacles in setting up policy frameworks to formalise energy sector reforms, including bureaucratic delays and financial constraints, which limited their impact.

Throughout the PPP’s term, the issue of circular debt in the energy sector exacerbated, impeding investments in new projects, and jeopardising the sector’s sustainability. Even though some progress was made in rural electrification and improving energy access in underserved areas, the actual implementation fell short of the promises made in the manifesto. This highlights the difference between policy development and its real-world implementation.

As a political party centred on anti-corruption, socioeconomic development, and effective governance, the PTI aimed to make significant shifts, especially in the energy sector, in its vision for “Naya Pakistan.” PTI worked to address the energy crisis by promoting renewable energy sources and improving efficiency. Since taking office in 2018, the PTI implemented a range of reforms in the energy sector, focusing on increasing the use of renewable energy projects in the overall energy mix. However, challenges emerged while putting these strategies into action.

The problem of circular debt worsened the financial instability of the sector, making it challenging to provide sustainable energy. Administrative and financial limitations hindered the progress of the initiatives. PTI also encountered challenges in managing the energy sector, including reducing losses and enhancing distribution efficiency. Progress was hampered by various challenges, such as technical issues, outdated infrastructure, and the complexities in reforming the tariff structure.

It is quite evident that all political parties faced challenges while implementing their manifestos due to economic, political, and systematic obstacles. Limited budgets and financial uncertainty hindered the distribution of resources for ambitious projects. The issues were aggravated by the slow-moving bureaucracy and frequent leadership changes, which caused disruptions and obstructed policy changes.

Global economic changes and geopolitical factors also limit policy choices and implementation strategies. Lack of effective governance and institutional capacity hinders the effectiveness of implementation mechanisms, while regulatory obstacles and outdated infrastructure require comprehensive solutions that are often ignored in policy documents.

To overcome these challenges, a strategic approach is necessary. This involves improving governance frameworks, ensuring political stability, and strengthening institutional capacity. Moreover, it’s crucial to support economic resilience through careful fiscal management and the growth of energy sources, including renewable energy, to reduce reliance on imports.

Creating clear accountability mechanisms and involving the private sector in policy formulation can help ensure that policy commitments are effectively put into action, leading to sustainable development and good governance. Political parties should aim to address these complex connections between different elements.

Asim Javed, "Analysing the implementation of political manifestos," Business recorder. 2024-02-23.
Keywords: Political science , Political changes , Political parties , Global economics , Economic change , Renewable Energy , Sustainable development , Political stability , Energy sources , Social justice

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