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## Opinion

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February 28, 2016

# The Orange Line

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Cost: The government of Punjab is spending Rs162 billion for the transportation of 250,000 residents of Lahore. Question: How much is Rs162 billion? Answer: Rs162 billion for 250,000 passengers amounts to Rs650,000 per passenger. For the record, Mehran VX sells for Rs630,000 and, in effect, the government of Punjab could have bought a Mehran VX for each and every passenger.

Question: How much is Rs162 billion? Answer: Punjab’s population stands at 101 million and the government of Punjab spends a total of Rs59 billion on education and Rs54 billion on health services. Every resident of Punjab will now be taking on an additional Chinese debt of Rs1,600. For the record, the government of Punjab spends Rs600 on a per capita basis on education and Rs500 on a per capita basis on health.

Question: How much is Rs162 billion? Every three out of four residents of Punjab do not have access to clean drinking water. Amazingly, Budget 2015-16 allocated a mere Rs12 billion for the water supply of 101 million residents of Punjab.

Question: How about the Orange Line’s financial viability? Answer: The estimated breakeven is Rs175 per ticket. At Rs20 a ticket, the Orange Line will lose Rs40 million a day or Rs14 billion a year (operation and maintenance is estimated at around Rs4 billion a year).

Question: What about the debt payment to the Chinese? Answer: The debt payment of interest and principal is estimated at around Rs30 million a day or Rs10 billion a year (assuming that the Chinese loan is concessional in nature).

Question: How much is Rs162 billion? Answer: On a per kilometre basis it converts to Rs6 billion a kilometre – the most expensive of its kind on the face of the planet (the cost of the Lahore Metro Bus was Rs1 billion a kilometre).

Question: How much is Rs162 billion? Answer: The Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre – comprising outpatient clinics, chemotherapy facility and an inpatient unit – is going to cost Rs4 billion. With Rs162 billion, the government of Punjab could have built 41 such hospitals (Punjab has 36 districts).

For the record, 47 percent of school-age children in Punjab are out-of-school. According to The Citizens Foundation, the cost of building a primary school is Rs17 million. With Rs162 billion, the government of Punjab can build 10,000 good quality primary schools; nearly 300 new schools in each and every one of Punjab’s 36 districts.

For the record, there are 2.9 million school-age children in Punjab who are out-of-school. According to The Citizens Foundation, the yearly cost of educating a child is Rs15,000. The yearly cost of educating all of the 2.9 million will be Rs44 billion.

Someone intelligent once said, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad.