Uzair Ali discusses some crucial Issues with planning in Pakistan
Though apparently, Pakistan contains vast planning machinery unfortunately like most of the things in the country, it is not viable. Apparently, the planning machinery in issues with planning in Pakistan is headed by the National Economic Council (NEC) whose membership consists of the top federal political executive of the country.
Meetings of NEC are also attended by provincial governors and additionally, a number of other persons are invited to attend its meetings. NEC reflects upon and decides matters pertaining to the overall economic situation of the country along with formulating and implementing economic and financial policies laid down by the federal government.
It also approves Annual Development Plans as well as provincial development schemes in the public sector above a certain financial limit and all non-profit projects. The other layer of planning machinery that is subordinate to the NEC is the Executive Committee of NEC known as ECNEC.
Its membership consists of all federal ministries dealing with development ministries, provincial governors or their nominees, and provincial ministers, in charge of planning and development departments. Its mandate is to set up development schemes, both in the public and private sectors with the aim to present them to NEC for decisions.
It also supervises the implementation of economic policies laid down by the cabinet and the NEC. There is another planning segment known as the Annual Plan Coordination Committee which is a purely advisory body responsible for advising the federal cabinet and the NEC regarding the coordination of policies.
High-level bureaucratic functionaries dealing with planning matters are its members and regularly meet to deliberate upon planning matters. Yet another body known as the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) is responsible for the scrutiny and sanction of development projects.
Independent Planning Authority
The development schemes of federal development outfits costing over Rs.10 million and of the provincial governments costing over Rs.50 million regularly go to this body for approval. However, the responsibility for the overall economic evaluation of Annual Plans remains with the federal planning division that annually evaluates economic performance.
Though the planning apparatus looks wholesome it is impeded by many issues that are now considered endemic. One of the major implements experienced by the planning machinery in establishing a sound, efficient, and independent planning authority is the lack of effective administrative machinery that has gradually gone weak. The most prominent difficulty in this respect is the lack of competent personnel.
It is very worrying to note that qualified and efficient personnel have gone scarce in the government service which has badly affected the planning setup. This issue has eroded the entire planning profile and practice of planning in the country.
It is widely recognized that in Pakistan, documents and files are required to follow a prescribed series of steps through administrative layers. In the process, it is mostly observed that the process of movement of the required paperwork is extremely cumbersome resulting in long delays.
In many cases, the coordination of development activities has been extremely difficult because responsibility for different aspects of a project or program is divided among many federal and provincial agencies making it very difficult to ensure the carrying out of programs according to laid down policy configuration.
It is also noted that the planning setup suffers from inadequate preparatory work on projects and mostly their feasibility studies are faulty. It is mostly found that preparatory work on public projects in the country is frequently lacking and due to inadequate preparatory work on projects, many plans have failed in achieving their targets.
Implementation & Issues with planning in Pakistan
In addition, one reason is the lack of implementation of the country’s various development plans pointing out the consistent failure of the planning machinery to maintain discipline implicit in their plan. What is planned and what is done in many cases bear little relationship to each other. At times it almost appears that plans are prepared by a planning agency in one corner of a government and policy is made by various bodies in other corners.
A crucial issue is the lack of evaluation of the plan’s progress and project implementation. Flexibility is an essential element of development planning because in many cases changes in economic conditions make deviations from the original plan unavoidable but in Pakistan flexibility in most cases implies failure.
What is needed in this respect is to constantly review and assess progress in relation to events but whenever evaluation is prepared by the country’s planning authorities, they were brought to the fore long after the end of the period to which they refer.
In many cases, the mid-term reviews of development plans have been published almost near the end of the plan period and the final reviews of the plan have come long after the new plan has been launched, therefore, they are of little use to formulating targets and policies for the new plan. The Weekender