The Lahore Metro Bus System was inaugurated on the 10th of Feb and from the looks of it, the Punjab State Government has outdone itself as far as the facilities are concerned. The road track which consists of 29 bus station is 27 km long, out of which 8.5 km is elevated, thus making it the longest bridge in south East Asia. Facilities like e-ticketing and Intelligent Transportation System have also been provided. The service is free for the first month.
This project is in collaboration with the Turkish government and was inaugurated by the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bakir Bozdage and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. Even after the ‘oh so’ generous gift from the mayor of Istanbul Kadir Topbas who announced a gift of 100 buses, this project will still cost the Punjab government almost Rs. 30 billion (US $30.1m).
An impressive guest list and a bang bang opening ceremony made sure they got the media attention they wanted but one look at the details and a little bit of research will tell you the truth about this whole project.
Overall budget for infrastructure development in Punjab is Rs. 63 billion which means half of that amount was spent in Lahore. This excludes the cost of the numerous underpasses and overhead bridges that were built.
Now the amount allocated to the health sector for the entire province of Punjab is Rs16.5 billion. Just to give you a clear idea the recently developed Rawalpindi Institute of Cardiology was built within Rs2.8 billion, taking that as our benchmark, we would have been able to build 10 such hospitals with the RS30 billion spent on the Metro Bus.
Let’s check the education scene in Punjab. Overall budget for education is Rs25 billion and though I would later do a detailed piece on it but for now I can say that looking at the pathetic state of the infrastructure, lack of proper sanitation and clean drinking water, the govt. decision to spend Rs5 billion out of the total 25 on laptops was nothing short of stupid.
We are all well aware of the economic situation in Pakistan, it’s not in a crisis yet but nothing much to boast about as well. Comparing the performance of the Punjab province with the rest of the country. The province’s annual average growth rate of 2.5% between 2007 and 2011 lagged far behind the 3.4% for the rest of Pakistan, according to the Lahore-based Institute of Public Policy (IPP). Over 83% of the Rs783 billion Punjab budget for the current year will be financed by federal transfers and 12% by provincial tax revenue.
The running cost of this metro service we are discussing is Rs1 billion an year and as expected, very little is being said about the same. With the lack of funds this is going to end up as yet another state owned disaster.
Taking nothing away from the companies who have developed this ambitious project within a span of two years, this is a luxury which Pakistan cannot afford.