The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf is once again shuffling matters around. There had been a lot of focus on policies previously, and now it is time for departments to be reorganised. The Statistics Division has been abolished. The responsibility of holding the population census has been transferred to the Ministry of Planning and Development along with control of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS). Only time will tell whether this step results in producing efficiency by government departments. It should be kept in mind that the Ministry of Planning and Statistics had not been reputed to be a highly efficient department before. With more responsibilities under its belt, there is a bit of risk-taking involved. On the other hand, the greater responsibility might catapult the ministry into greater action.
The government was dissatisfied with the PBS’s work on releasing inflation readings and its overall performance. With regard to this aspect, it is admirable that the government is reorganising departments instead of allowing them to function inefficiently as they have so far been allowed to do. As for the role of the Planning Division, there has been a dearth of strong statistical recordkeeping. Poor statistical data has resulted in weak planning and inadequate remedies in many areas such as housing and infrastructure. We look forward to quality data collection and statistics that will better inform the Planning Division in its projects.
The upcoming National Accounts Committee meeting will be chaired by the Ministry secretary instead of the former Statistics Division secretary. With new roles, there should be accountability of the department. Similarly, if the Statistics Division is to be transformed into the Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Division, it is necessary to keep regular check. Poverty alleviation is one of the main pathways towards better security and stability and is closely linked to the work of the Planning Division which will focus on statistics related to trade, industry, and prices. The Planning Division will need to configure a thorough system of communication and cooperation between provincial and federal controls.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 7th, 2019.
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