Amid increasing footprints of international donors, Planning Commission chief Dr Nadeemul Haque has criticised the World Bank for throwing money behind failed projects and venturing into areas that are not so important for the revival of the economy.
Haque’s remarks reflect an effort to highlight the donor-bureaucrat nexus that has led to unchecked benefits for bureaucrats and donor agencies alike, which is widening the debt burden of the country.
He was speaking at a ceremony organised to launch a report on the water and sanitation sector, prepared by the World Bank.
How such events are used to benefit the people involved can be gauged from the fact that to give a 15-minute presentation on the situation of water supply and sanitation in Pakistan, William D Kingdom, the Regional Lead Specialist Water, flew in from Washington.
Haque came down hard on the Washington-based lending agency at a time when the WB was ready to offer another $300 million in the name of tax reforms despite failure of the previous $150 million support for the same purpose. Despite Planning Commission’s opposition, the project is likely to be signed soon.
“We do not need capacity building. Help us in undertaking reforms and do not hedge us against little things,” said a visibly upset deputy chairman of Planning Commission while giving his concluding remarks.
He complained that the WB was either focusing on areas which came at the bottom of the country’s priority or the proposed solutions which have already been given in the Framework for Economic Growth – the strategy paper that the Commission believes offers solutions to all economic ills.
He said the Planning Commission gave policy guidelines without seeking donor funding and the WB would always conduct research in areas where it wanted to give money without caring about the outcome.
Haque also admitted the failure of the government in funding research and implementing reforms in all spheres, which eventually provided an opportunity to the donors to do work according to their will.
He said in the Framework for Economic Growth “we came to the conclusion that people need a lot more.”
“Water and sanitation is important in people’s life, but they need a lot more. They need liberty and happiness and this requires reforms, which neither the government nor the WB is ready to support,” said Haque, who could not make a dent despite remaining the head of an institution that is supposed to be ahead of present times.
He argued that the WB was ignoring critical areas like energy and civil service reforms and without conducting studies in these two areas and eventually initiating meaningful reforms the country could not progress.
He disclosed that the WB had frankly told him that it could not cooperate in these areas. “In Pakistan, bureaucracy controls everything and without civil service reforms the country cannot be put on the path of sustainable development,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2013.
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