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Posted at: Jan 11, 2017, 12:53 AM; last updated: Jan 11, 2017, 12:53 AM (IST)

It’s bad economics

Congress promises more than it can deliver
Punjab is set to suffer the onslaught of politics of freebies. Welfare limited to the needy is welcome but the delivery should be without leakages. Like other parties, the Congress tries to appease the voter with this or that promise. That Punjab is financially in dire straits is no concern of any political party. Freebies can be funded either by raising taxes or through debt. The Congress manifesto talks of cutting government expenditure, though none of its leaders have remotely ever alluded to making sacrifices the manifesto calls upon them to do like giving up foreign trips, escort vehicles or the use of helicopter. Proposals on the table are not backed by the Congress governments’ track record. 

There are contradictions too. Capt Amarinder Singh has promised party rebels posts in boards and corporations, which Manpreet Singh Badal hopes to wind up. After debt servicing, paying salaries, pensions and subsidies is a problem and, then if the new pay report is implemented, Punjab’s finances would be totally unsettled. And yet the Congress plans to create more government jobs — regardless of their need or viability — since it promises one job per family. The manifesto seems to be oblivious of the state's dismal situation. For want of funds Punjab’s education and health have been outsourced to the private sector. Industry and agriculture have lagged as state investment is minimal. Lack of affordable, quality education and healthcare has let down the deprived making efforts to climb out of poverty. Preserving, rejuvenating and cleaning up water resources is not a priority for the party, nor is it forthcoming on discontinuing free power or restricting it to the needy; instead it has extended the subsidy to industry as well.  

Then there are governance issues. The Captain claims he would end the drug menace, but recently he embraced drug-tainted leaders. Congress leaders’ business interests are known. Interestingly, the party hopes to pass a law to check “conflict-of-interest” situations. The manifesto carries the Manpreet stamp on scrapping VIP culture but Congress leaders are yet to make it an election issue. The manifesto is far from exciting. It remains to be seen if the Congressmen themselves feel excited and guided by it.

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