CM’s Pre-budget Meeting

My editorial for Balochistan Times on 9th May, 2019
Chief Minister Balochistan Jam Kamal Khan Alyani chaired a meeting of the provincial secretaries and ordered them for preparation of a budget that reflected the masses aspirations and needs. Planning and Development Department (P&D) and Finance Departments were given the task and their weekend holidays were called off until the preparation of the budget. However, the budgets in the previous years were also claimed to be pro-poor and masses friendly but the quality of the life in the Balochistan remains at a standstill despite that fact that the Members of Provincial Assembly (MPAs) were allocated Rs. 250 million in the development funds on the schemes proposed by them. The money, one can say safely, has gone down to the drains as poverty in the province ever higher and quality of life poorer. Take any indicator and you will find Balochistan performing the lowest in the sector be it caloric poverty among the women and children, infant and mother mortality rates, out of school children and the list runs long.
Independent economists are vocal for years in the province against what they call a faulty PSPD and short term planning, pressing government for long term planning which is result oriented and goes to make a difference in the lives of the common people. Wasting money on gutter and nullah schemes only serves the interests of the ministers for gaining currency in their constituency but that does not leave any positive impact on the economy of the province. The main pillars of Balochsitan economy are livestock, agriculture, fisheries and irrigation sectors which need large budgetary allocation as Balochistan is a vast province mainly with around 20 million acres of arid land and most people in the province are dependent on live-stock or agriculture. Whereas in the coastal belt, which makes 80 percent of coastal belt of entire Pakistan, the livelihood of the people is dependent on fisheries and promoting this industry can change the lives of the people attached with this profession. Last but not the least is the minerals of the province, which of course, need no elaboration. Gold, copper, coal, chromite and innumerable minerals can be exploited in the interest of the poor masses of this province.
But governments in the past seemed to have remained focused on projects that were least result oriented and budget of the Communication and Works (C&W) was higher than the other sectors comparatively. This government has also announced upgradation of schools and provision of infrastructure facilities in the schools which again relates to construction works and possibility of kickbacks cannot be ruled out. But chief minister and his team have not briefed media yet on the live-stock, fisheries, agriculture and irrigation if there any planning is going to take place for making a sustainable development usher in the province and to bring about a real change in the lives of the masses.
If this government is really serious in bringing some real change in the province, it should resort to long term planning for at least 10 or 15 years’ period for a meaningful change. There is nothing bad in the upgradation of schools but not such petty project but mega projects would usher a social mobility and beat down poverty. Therefore, this government can take a revolutionary step of establishing at least 2 residential schools and colleges in each district with quality education. Moreover, it should also consider building small and medium size dams for water storage so that approximately 20 million acres of virgin land of the province could be irrigated to serve as food basket not only for Pakistan but entire region as the province has around 50 major and medium size rivers on which and water storage facilities can be built. Moreover, it should also take up timely completion of mega projects like Kachi Canal with federal government so that the virgin land in Naseerabad Division could benefit entire country. In short, long term planning is only answer to many problems of Balochistan.

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