Think before you plan

Pillars of PML-N's goal of “Strong Economy, Strong Pakistan” are no different from the Nine Point Agenda of PPP's.

Dr Pervez Tahir July 18, 2013

The Eighth Five-Year Plan (1993-98) was the last of such exercises begun in the 1950s. It covered some years of the previous PML-N governments. An unapproved draft was prepared for the ninth plan period. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union, state planning as an ideology was on the retreat and the so-called Washington Consensus was on the rise. As the free marketeers took over country after country, planning ministries became weaker and weaker and the finance ministries, seen by the international financial institutions (IFIs) as effective deliverers on conditionality, assumed economic leadership. Short- to medium-term economic management occupied the centre stage. In Pakistan, planning shifted to perspectives. First a Ten-Year Perspective 2001-11 was prepared by incorporating the concept of three-year rolling plans. Soon it was replaced by the Medium-Term Development Framework 2005-10. Nadeemul Haque went his own way, championing a Growth Framework while his office held on to a working draft of the Tenth Five-Year Plan (2010-15).

Recently, when the Planning and Development Minister, Ahsan Iqbal, came out with his pillars of what was reported as the Tenth Five-Year Plan 2013-18 (The Express Tribune, July 2, 2013), one thought he was returning to the good old concept of planning. However, the Planning Commission website talks of a development strategy 2013-18, an obvious replacement of the much hyped and rather expensively prepared growth framework. His prioritisation of the pillars leads us to a different ancestry. Pillar 1 aims at stabilising the economy by minimising fiscal deficit, adopting self-reliance, focusing on tax reforms, increasing investments. Pillar 2 revives the economy for balanced and sustainable growth by promoting the private sector and transforming productive sectors towards value addition through innovation, enhancing quality and productivity. Pillar 3 achieves energy security by addressing inefficiencies, replacing expensive dependence on fuel oil with cheaper alternatives and an integrated energy policy. Pillar 4 builds modern infrastructure for a high-growth economy, which serves as a corridor and hub of regional trade through efficient transport networks by reducing production and transaction costs. Pillar 5 restores peace and security by strengthening the country’s relations with all countries of the world, in particular, the international economic blocs, as well as improving security by initiating various social and entrepreneurial programmes in underdeveloped areas. Pillar 5 achieves good governance through institutional and governance reforms with a focus on transparency, accountability, merits in appointments, involvement of citizens at all stages of planning, implementation and monitoring, and providing speedy solution through e-governance. Pillar 6 develops enterprising social capital with a focus on human development, poverty alleviation and youth empowerment to achieve inclusive growth.

These pillars, supporting the PML-N goal of “Strong Economy — Strong Pakistan”, are no different from the Nine Point Agenda of Economic and Social Recovery pushed by Shaukat Tarin of the PPP days. These included (1) macroeconomic stability and real sector growth (2) protecting the poor and the vulnerable (3) increasing productivity and value addition in agriculture (4) making industry internationally competitive (5) capital and finance for development (6) removing infrastructure bottlenecks through public-private partnerships (7) integrated energy development programme (8) human capital development for the 21st century and (9) governance for a just and fair system.

Where did Tarin get his nine points? From the “home-grown” Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper II, not adopted officially but nevertheless a guiding internal document for the Ministry of Finance since 2007. The nine points were actually the chapter headings of the same document. Pakistan’s request for the Extended Fund Facility falls in the same line of thought.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2013.

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Karam Elahi Janjua | 10 years ago | Reply

Good piece of advice.

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