ISLAMABAD: First an unwanted devolution and then the lack of coordination between the newly created Federal Ministry for Food Security (FMFS) and Research Division could lead to missing crop targets in the coming year.
This was stated by a senior ministry official on Thursday. He said that no strategies have been evolved by the provinces and the ministry to meet the crop targets for the coming year. “The basic problem is the absence of development funds and technical staff,” he said.
Under the 18th Constitutional Amendment, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture was devolved to the provinces. However, almost all previous functions of the previous ministry were restored after the creation of the FMFS. “This was a useless exercise, the devolution of the ministry only to bring it back is nothing more than a waste of time and resources,” said the official. The official added that all furniture and related properties of the previous ministry were sold cheaply after the ministry’s devolution, only to have the ministry in need of the same resources again. Employees are now biding their time, sitting idle in the office in the absence of a development budget or technical staff.
After the creation of FMFS, the finance ministry has allocated Rs40 million in funds for its recurring expenditure. However, the Establishment Division has not given its approval for creating positions for technical staff. When contacted, Food Security and Research Federal Secretary Shafqat Naghmi said that they are trying to create technical positions and generate development funds. He added that the ministry’s function has been affected following the devolution and that they plan to coordinate with the provinces and other stakeholders to achieve the crop targets.
Naghmi said that the current ministry has additional responsibilities than the previous one and that the devolution was not a wise decision, holding former Food Federal Secretary Ismail Qureshi responsible for paving the way. “We gave a detailed presentation to the 18th Amendment implementation committee about not devolving the ministry, but were not heard [by the committee].”
Agri Forum Pakistan Chairman Muhammad Ibrahim Mughal said, “It is likely that Pakistan would lose approximately 2.5 million tons of wheat this year from the 25 million tons target, due to illogical decisions of the government.” He added that farmers have decreased their per acre cultivation due to the delayed announcement of wheat prices announced by the Prime Minister in December instead of September.
Mughal added that until October, no work attributed to food security had yet begun by the ministry whose officials “are sitting idle but getting full salaries and incentives”. Despite being stakeholders, the Agri Forum was never taken on board.
“It seems that the creation of the ministry was merely a political decision to please ministers and give jobs to secretaries,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 20th, 2012.