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Saturday, 14 May 2016
Action – not rhetoric: By Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif
May 13, 2016
As the PML-N government, led by Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, nears the completion of its third year in public service, some of the landmark achievements of the government should be shared with the nation.
There is no denying the fact that the past three years have been a time of monumental challenges. Resuscitating Pakistan from the abyss of daunting crises after years of misrule and bad governance was never going to be an easy task.
A combination of three challenges – terrorism, energy and economy – not only impeded Pakistan’s progress but also threatened its survival. We knew that the challenges were great but greater was our resolve to overcome them. Right from the word go, we got down to business in all earnestness. We never looked back and continued to march on.
During the last three years, significant successes have been achieved on each of these fronts. International think-tanks and publications that previously wrote Pakistan off are acknowledging her turnaround today.
While I leave the comment on our marvellous achievements on security front for another day, I want to walk you through an amazing story of dedicated public service, wherein new benchmarks of transparency, openness and unwavering commitment have been set.
Today the government’s success in achieving macroeconomic stability has won global acknowledgement. This is testified by a recent report published by Moody’s Investors’ Service; the report retained Pakistan’s credit outlook at B3 stable. It is for the first time in the past decade that Moody’s upgraded the country’s credit outlook from stable to B3. This improvement has been followed by a similar acknowledgement from Standard and Poor’s.
This remarkable resilience of the economy, which is the result of astute management, has to be seen in the backdrop of energy and terrorism challenges which hurt the economy grievously.
No other area has solicited the government’s policy focus more than the resolution of the energy crisis. From the launching of the National Power Policy to initiation of work on power-sector projects, the government has taken solid steps to significantly reduce power outages in the country. The ongoing work on the coal, RLNG, hydel and solar power projects aims to diversity the energy mix.
While this work is part of the overall reform package, we, here in Punjab, are doing something in our jurisdiction that is unheard of in a country where corruption and misrule has been the name of the game.
For the first time in Pakistan’s history, the PML-N government led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, has introduced a new culture of savings in mega projects through prudent contracting. Considering every penny a public trust, we have made sure that the taxpayers’ hard-earned money is not only well spent on projects of public welfare but maximum concessions are also solicited from the lowest bidders through further negotiations.
Under the PPRA rules, the government awards a contract to the lowest bidder. However, in case of projects being implemented in energy, transport and infrastructure sectors in Punjab, the government has gone a step further and engaged with the bidders to obtain more financial concessions.
On the whole, the PML-N government has performed the rare feat of saving a whopping sum of Rs215 billion in the mega projects. What is important is that these savings are not notional but tangible.
Just to give you an idea of what milestone has been achieved, it is important to mention that in case of gas-fired power projects being constructed at Bhikhi, Balloki and Haveli Bahadur Shah, the final negotiated costs come down to about half of what was incurred on similar gas projects installed to date in the country. The cost of various IPPs ranged from $800 to $930 per kilowatt. Compared to these, RLNG-fired projects are being built at half the price. Thus a sum of Rs110.93 billion has been saved in these three projects alone.
Likewise, in case of the under-construction Lahore Orange Line project, Rs78.50 billion has been saved. The Orange Line project marks history’s three biggest departures. First, it is for the first time in the bilateral history of Pakistan and China that tendering has taken place in a government-to-government mode of cooperation with the full support and cooperation of the Chinese government.
Second, the tendering was followed by negotiation with the lowest bidder. The Punjab government secured a saving of $600 million through negotiation with CR-NORINCO (lowest bidder) by mutually settling on $1.47 billion (without contingency) as the project cost of the OLMT.
Third, for the first time the Chinese government has handed over all of the civil works of the project to the Punjab government, which has further resulted in an additional saving of Rs6 billion in the sub-tendering.
So the point being contended here is this: when was the last time such phenomenal savings were secured? When was the last time transparency, accountability and honesty were displayed at such a level? In fact, on the contrary, such projects have in the past been the source of hefty commissions and kickbacks at the tendering and contract awarding stages.
Transparency and openness in policies adopted by the government explain why Pakistan jumped from its previous 50th position to 53rd on Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perception Index 2015 (CPI).
It is my resolve to spend these savings into social sector development. During the remaining two years of my mandate, you will see a palpable change in how educational institutions function and hospitals deliver services to the people, how police stations interact with citizens and how the overall well-being of people improves.
This is how real change is brought about by putting people at the centre of public policy. Action, not rhetoric, is leading the way in our government’s efforts to uplift the lives of our people.