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Growth for Balochistan

In my last article ‘Development for Balochistan’ , I tried to outline an alternative development paradigm for Balochistan as a process of engagement, local planning, resource ownership...

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In my last article ‘Development for Balochistan’ (May 2), I tried to outline an alternative development paradigm for Balochistan as a process of engagement, local planning, resource ownership and inclusive governance. In this article I will focus on strategies and policy actions to translate the alternative development paradigm into practice.

Empirical evidence from the Global South suggests that only those economic growth strategies work well in which the local and central governments work together to foster long-term partnerships for sustainable development. Vertical growth models may represent expansion of GDP but that does not necessarily mean economic inclusion, equality and prosperity for the majority. Most of our conventional policy experts and economists tend to suggest economic growth rate as a measure of prosperity without considering equity, inclusivity and protection of traditional livelihoods. Economic growth without horizontal benefits is a flawed concept which gives birth to income disparity, political instability and exclusion of a vast majority from the streams of economic trickle-down.

In the context of Balochistan, this becomes even more relevant if we recognize the fact that for many decades the people of Balochistan remained excluded from the planning and policy of the provincial development agenda. This continued negligence of development priorities of local people has at times given birth to the dwindling of the writ of the state in Balochistan. As a consequence of the increasing sense of marginalization, provincial governments in Balochistan became overstretched in tackling the larger security issues rather than focusing on the local development priorities.

The question one may ask here is: what should be the alternative ways to facilitate local development planning and who should be doing that? Local development planning requires a thorough stakeholder consultation process at the district level to determine the contextual factors of poverty and formulate a workable strategy of development and poverty reduction. This requires a long-term engagement programme with financial and technical support to help local people articulate their transformational priorities for sustainable development.

There is a general perception that the provincial government of Balochistan neither has the institutional capacity nor political will to strengthen local development initiatives. In practice, however, the provincial government has the institutional mechanism, but it needs drastic reforms to make it responsive to local development needs.

While institutional reforms can be undertaken in an incremental manner as a long-term policy, the provincial government can set some medium and short-term objectives to address poverty and exclusion. These policy objectives can be materialized by engaging the specialized agencies of poverty alleviation through strategic partnership which must be governed by a robust mechanism of monitoring and mutual accountability. For instance, the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) can be a potential strategic partner and can provide technical supervision on behalf of the provincial government in the local planning and implementation of poverty alleviation programmes. This process of indigenous development planning can be strengthened by making it even an open-source programme with the government, private sector and development agencies co-investing in the key areas of socioeconomic development and growth.

The PPAF can be engaged to prepare district development strategies in that all concerned stakeholders are involved to contribute to the identification of local development needs. These stakeholders can then come together to co-invest in the identified priority areas of poverty alleviation at the district level. In the years to come, the district development strategies can be organized around three subjects: annual assessment of the economic outcomes of district development strategies, the outcomes of inclusive economic development of generating growth, delivering services, and experiences of co-investments; macroeconomic factors and political economy issues which shape our contemporary economic policies; and consistent engagement with all stakeholders who can play a critical role in affecting socioeconomic change in Balochistan.

The first premise upon which these district development strategies will be built is the belief to be optimistic about Balochistan's development because of its potential. The success of such assumptions hinges upon the fact that the provincial and federal governments will benefit from these inclusive district development strategies which will be reflected in the annual development plans. There must be some synergies between Balochistan's development needs and the national development agenda in the areas of potential growth and comparative advantages -- energy, trade, mining, food production and dairy business etc. Furthermore, the expression of political will for inclusive growth and transition to geo-economic presents a unique opportunity to move Balochistan from the periphery to the core of economic development, helping overcome our perennial problem of peripheralization of the nation-building project. .

Second, in order to overcome the challenges that held back provincial development for many decades, Balochistan should pursue a development agenda with the objective of generating horizontal growth, delivering services, and financing development. This approach can make sure that Balochistan's development path is inclusive. Third, generating growth requires leveraging Balochistan's resource and geographical advantages, deepening its capacity for value-addition, and strengthening the foundations for productive economic activity.

Fourth, delivering services depends on improving the public administration, making devolution more effective and scaling-up basic services with innovative approaches involving the private sector and communities. Finally, financing development relies on prudent management of provincial expenditures, strengthening the capacity for revenue collection, and advancing fiscal devolution.

The writer is a social development and policy adviser, and a freelance columnist based in Islamabad.


Twitter: AmirHussain76


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