Development projects: Poor management acts as main bottleneck

One-of-a-kind Planning Commission survey reviews 618 public sector development projects during fiscal 2010.

Shahbaz Rana August 29, 2011


Contrary to general perception of financial scarcity being the main bottleneck in timely completion of development projects, a recent study reveals that lack of managerial capacities was the biggest reason behind delays during financial year 2010.

The review of 618 public sector development projects during financial year 2010 revealed that 34 per cent or 212 projects suffered because of management capacity problems. Inadequate funding was second on the list as it affected 30 per cent or 183 reviewed projects, according to one-of-a-kind study carried out by the Planning Commission.

Delay in civil works was the third major reason that affected 68 projects followed by security and other sector specific issues that delayed 58 projects in 2009-10.

The study on common problems and issues while executing the projects also confesses that Planning Commission is not following the appraisal and approval procedure and was carrying out ‘weak scrutiny’. Due to that accurate economic analysis (of the projects) are not possible, resulting in problems at execution stage and consequently envisaged results are not achieved, the study says.

The Planning Commission is responsible for appraisal and approval of projects coupled with monitoring and evaluation of third party PSDP projects.

The government, particularly the Planning Commission, faced criticism for approving projects under political consideration by compromising economic aspects despite spending of trillions of rupees over the years. The report states the projects were “ill-planned and more importantly there was no evidence of  any major impact of these projects to the public”.

“There seems to be limited planning on post completion maintenance or effective administration of the project for maximising benefits to the people”.

The total project portfolio is over Rs4.1 trillion currently, of which projects worth about Rs3 trillion have been approved but awaiting allocations.

“To understand public service delivery and growth in the country, we need to understand projects, their implementation and finally their delivery to the people of Pakistan,” said Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Dr Nadeemul Haque. He further said “substantial numbers of projects are completed every year, and now we need to move to the next stage of assessing the value of the projects to the society and economy”.

The report says that implementation and execution of PSDP funded projects had brought relief to the general public at large and positively contributed to the national economy. However, it may not be enough in the backdrop of rapidly growing population and consequent increased demand for provision of social services and infrastructure facilities.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th,  2011.

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Meekal Ahmed | 8 years ago | Reply | Recommend

This is all very well but hardly surprising. We have long lost the art of development planning, appraisal and execution.

The question is, what will come of this study and it's findings?

Building up management skills is a long and arduous task. It will not happen overnight. Give this lag, we should have done this study 15 years ago.

Development Dude | 8 years ago | Reply | Recommend

This article is right on the key issues. I have personally worked on initiatives where foreign aid agencies were ready to provide funding if the relevant parts of the government of Pakistan to actually take an interest in development. I have found that our government just doesn't respond, even when others are willing to do all the funding and the work. All they have to do is do simple things like provide land, permits and basic levels of support..which they almost always fail to do. They don't even bother to respond to phone calls or to follow through on commitments they make. Aid agencies are absolutely ready to provide a lot of funding...we have plenty of talented people who know how to utilize those funds and resources....but the problem is that our government is unable to fulfill its function of facilitating this process. We shouldn't be surprised considering that our Chief Ministers and key cabinet members are uneducated buffoons who have other priorities on their minds, such as how to apply for Canadian immigration and what properties to buy in the UK and Dubai.

With respect to civil works causing delays....its natural that this would be the case considering that it is one of the primary methods through which our corrupt politicians enrich themselves at public expense. Every key official has a contracting firm, or several, that get priority access to almost all civil works jobs in the country. That's why our infrastructure costs 2-3 times as much as it should, takes much longer to build, is of poor quality, and lasts for much less time than its intended life. Aid agencies and foreign entities have strict rules regarding bribes, but they provide guidance to their officials to facilitate progress by providing contracting opportunities to those who would otherwise ask directly for bags of cash. It is an indirect and more legal way of bribing officials in countries such as ours where corruption is rampant. Therefore, we plant the seeds of destruction in every initiative by giving key parts of the project away to incompetent officials in the form of "tendered" contracts. If the public is somehow able to improve this particular industry, it will go a long way to getting more out of our existing resources and will also drastically improve the success rate of the majority of our public initiatives.

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