Editorial written by me for Daily Balochistan Express
The people of Balochistan are now quite familiar with the word ‘emergency’ that echoes from the power corridors off and on. The outgoing government had also played with the word quite too long to impose so-called emergency in the education and health sectors.
What came of those emergencies at the end of the day was nothing but the same pathetic conditions of health service delivery and poor state of education despite increase of the education budget from around 2 to 26%.
The new cabinet the other day also announced an emergency yet again in education and health sectors, announcing 10,000 teaching and non-teaching staff positions to be filled, providing washroom facilities in 10,000 schools, addressing the water issues in government schools and addressing teachers’
and doctors’ absenteeism in both departments. An institute of cardiology in Quetta in collaboration with Pakistan Army with net cost of Rs. 3.6 billion is also on the cards, told Mr. Zahoor Ahmed Buledi, a newly elected cabinet member, and also admitted that government was undergoing a heavy economic crunch with a deficit of Rs. 62 billion for which the Federal Government would be approached.
It is not the first time that Balochistan is facing such a huge economic crunch with subsequent bailout request from the Federal Government. Previously many governments have approached the Federal Government for a bailout but no tangible results have been produced of those efforts.
To meet the deficit, the cabinet has also decided to improve the tax collection but it must be noted that the provincial government generates resources only to the tune of 3.5 billion and that too from the local taxes on property or motor vehicle tax. While the rest bulk of the taxes on mineral resources of Balochistan are collected by the Federal Government and Balochistan gets its share on them from the divisible pool through National Finance Commission (NFC) Award.
The NFC has already been delayed by three years now. The cabinet didn’t make any mention of taking up the NFC issue with Federal Government to save Balochistan from the losses over its undue delay as the 7th NFC expired on 30th June, 2015.
The government should not let the victories slip of its hands achieved in the 18th Constitutional Amendment and be vigilant enough to have the Federal Government deliver on all the obligation agreed in the said Amendment, including the article 172 (3) of the constitution that gives equal rights to the provinces over all mineral, oil and natural gas resources within the province.
The provincial government should also look into the allocation of 250 million previously allocated to the MPAs, Ministers and Advisers for projects proposed by them.
It is noted that on ground the resources seem to have gone waste and this allocation has left no impact on the provincial economy or quality of life of the people of all constituencies of MPAs and Ministers. The government should rather develop the mainstay of Balochistan economy which stands on four pillars of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries, and Mineral Resources. As regards the overall development,
it is suggested that the government should do away with the faulty Annual Development Plan (ADP) as it is impossible to achieve economic targets of the society in such a short period of time. The government should rather consider reviving 5-year development plans and for this purpose the Planning and Development Department should be assigned the task of preparing five year plans.
As far as reforms in education sector are concerned, the previous Adviser to the Chief Minister on Education in first two and half years was Raza Muhammad Bareech who had to his credentials the repute of an educationist and notwithstanding his vision, he could not achieve the dream of inclusive and quality education in the province. The issue of ghost teachers, schools, non-commitment, absenteeism, corruption aside,
bulk of economic resources allocated for the department went on meeting pay and pension bills of the department rather than on teachers’ facilitation, trainings, workshops, infrastructure, conveyance,
revision and up-gradation of curriculum and real-time monitoring of the teachers’ presence. Later, Abdul Rahim Ziaratwal made a stunning revelation that there was no record of 15000 teachers and 900 ghost schools with 300,000 fake student enrollment. It now requires an iron will to clear the Augean Stable.
Moreover, the task of addressing the water crisis in Quetta and Gwadar was assigned to the Public Health and Engineering (PHE) Department. The outgoing care-taker Minister for the said Department Naveed Kalmati, during a press conference, told media that as many as 117 tube-wells were out of order in Quetta installed by Water and Sanitation Authority (WASA). He also gave plans to meet the water needs of the city from Mangi Dam and tube-wells installed in Dasht. How would this government would clear the mess is for the time to tell.
Finally, despite previous government’s health emergency, the doctors’ private practice has not stopped notwithstanding the non-practicing allowances being paid to them, the situation in the public hospitals remains as ever pathetic on all fronts whereas the private hospitals’ business is booming.
We are not pessimistic of the emergency declared by this government but by painting a picture of the previous emergencies declared in the province, we convey a message to the incumbent government not to make a cosmetic use of the word rather use it for change that is tangible, clear and trickles down to the poor and needy of this province.