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Let’s blame the “Metro bus”

The much debated Rawalpindi-Islamabad “Metro bus project” was finally inaugurated by Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mian Nawaz Sharif. Punjab Government financed 50% of the project (Rs 19.62 billion) while the other half was provided by the Federal Government. The project attracted a lot of criticism from different sections, since its announcement and its critics have only increased after it became operational. From deteriorating educational structure to pitiable health facilities, “Metro bus” has been stigmatized as the mother of all problems. Let’s analyze whether the criticism it’s attracting is rational or not.

The three main sectors in Punjab’s budget for fiscal year 2014-15 were: Development Rs 345 billion, Education Rs 46.71 billion, and Health Rs 73.2 billion. The figures clearly illustrate that if compared with development budget both education and health sector needs a significant uplift. According to “Institute of Social and Policy Sciences”, the difference between total education budget allocation and expenditure for year 2014 is about Rs 21,459 million. Even 46.71 billion which may not look like a hefty amount was not completely used. Similar kind of situation also exists in health sector of Punjab where the lapse amount is around about 20 billion. The Punjab Government usually carries an image that they are very aggressive when it comes to development projects but the fact is that they only used 43.4% of the total development budget during the first 9 month of fiscal year 2014-15.

Metro bus

The figures clearly explain that the real problem is efficient use of resources and not the availability of resources. Even a hike in education/health budget will not materialize into something significant unless the executive part is not competent enough. This is one of the reasons why all the developed democracies of the world have established and efficient local governments. It is hard to believe that a Chief Minister sitting in Lahore would know everything about the poor educational or health facilities in Mianwali, Bhakkar, Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, etc. The MPA’s of the respective cities would not be fully aware of the situation, let alone the CM. When power is devolved at the local level (specifically at councilor level), it yields two benefits. The councilors know their constituency very well, they are aware of the problems and know which sector needs more attention. Secondly they are easily approachable; people can interact with them on a regular basis and can draw their attention to the problems which needs attention.

The Punjab Government has timed the launch of twin-cities “Metro Bus” project to perfection. With the local government elections in Punjab just around the corner (September/October), no doubt the ruling party will try to cash in on twin-cities “Metro Bus” project, along with the statement of starting the same in Multan. Anyone who has familiarity with the local transport of twin-cities knows the difference “Metro Bus” will make to their lives. Cramped up in the small vans of twin-cities during summers, a passenger feels like he/she will succumb to suffocation. Replacing the painful journeys of a common man with relaxation and a comfortable environment provided by the “Metro Bus”, will definitely affect the mindset of voters in the local government elections. But that will be the time when the voters can translate the criticism through their votes. They will have the power to select the one who can actually make a difference in their constituency, who promises to improve education, health, clean drinking water and sewerage facilities.

Mass transit system is a need of 21st century and urban population deserves a comfortable and economical communal transport. Blaming “Metro”, for all the evils of the system will not solve any problem, it may not be a top priority in some people’s list but that doesn’t make it a problem, it’s the solution of a problem. Who knows in the long run it will encourage people to use communal transport rather than personal transportation? It’s imperative that we should force the Government to solve other problems with same vigor instead of wasting our energies on “Metro”. Make sure that your list of problems is ready during the local government elections and regardless of party, caste or personal affiliation, choose the one who can actually solve the problems of education, health etc in your constituency. Till then enjoy the comfortable ride of “Metro Bus”.

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