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The populist step

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Food inflation is at an all-time high, and, therefore, any relief intended to make affordable bread more accessible has become the loudest and most pressing demand. Although knives are out and experts seem ready to attack the Punjab Chief Minister’s emphasis on reducing the rate of roti and naan in a bid to “bring more ease in the lives of people” as a gross simplification of the welfare model, no one can deny that Sharif family’s previous such schemes played a phenomenal role in cementing their support base in Punjab.
So much so that after criticising schemes like langarkhanas and slashed roti prices as “populist steps” for years on end, their vehement critic Imran Khan proceeded with going down the same route. No matter what developmental economics may suggest about building on the capacity of a nation so that it stands on its two feet and feeds itself, politicians cannot resist the temptation to rise to fame. Because while reality dictates that a well-run economy creating jobs is far more effective at selling the government’s success story than half-baked ideas, which appear doomed from the very beginning, hungry bellies seldom wait for the tide to get better.
Schemes of this nature have been implemented in the past, but unfortunately, they have often faced challenges and failed to deliver the outcomes. However, the Punjab government claims it is taking proactive steps to avoid the pitfalls. The government may recognise the importance of not just providing immediate relief but ensuring long-term benefits and self-sufficiency is the key here.
Chief Minister Maryam cannot ignore the fact that authorities in Punjab had scrapped the Sasti Roti scheme after accruing hefty debt to the tune of billions from commercial banks. Long after the project had collapsed, audits revealed that the state was still forced to pay interest on those loans.
The added predicament of no proper monitoring mechanism in place due to knee-jerk launching and embezzlement also needs to be dealt with. Past experiences do offer a lot of caution and potholes to look out for but only time will tell whether this executive is determined enough to nip the proverbial buds and ensure relief to the masses.