QUETTA: In its forthcoming budget for the financial year 2014-15, Balochistan must introduce structural changes in developmental planning and resource allocation with increased focus on communication infrastructure, education, health and water management, incrementally transforming the province from a pastoral economy to knowledge and natural resource-based economy.

Speakers at the pre-budget seminar on “Balochistan Budget 2014-2015: Consultative Dialogue on Equitable Allocation for Development” held  on Tuesday reiterated that the incumbent coalition government of Balochistan needs to develop a comprehensive strategy to use the legislative, fiscal, policy planning and administrative spaces provided by the 18th Constitutional Amendment and 7th NFC Award more effectively and efficiently.

The upcoming budget should reflect the commitments by the ruling parties made in their election manifestos, said speakers at the day-long session, organised by Search for Common Ground (SFCG) Pakistan, the UNDP’s Strengthening Participatory Federalism and Decentralisation project, Balochistan Chief Minister’s Policy Reform Unit (CMPRU) and AID Balochistan. The proceedings were moderated by Executive Director SFCG Pakistan Ammara Durrani and Chief CMPRU Dr Kaiser Bengali.

Government representatives, economists, political party representatives, members of civil society, media and other key stakeholders attended the seminar and discussed trends and results of budgetary spending in Balochistan. Their recommendations will be shared with the provincial finance department for its consideration in the forthcoming Provincial Finance Bill 2014-15.

The seminar started with a detailed presentation on Balochistan’s fiscal situation by CMPRU, revealing that after the seventh NFC Award, Balochistan’s annual receipts from the divisible pool has increased from Rs60 to 120 billion at the close

of fiscal year 2009-10.

Speaking at the opening session, Advisor to Chief Minister on Finance Khalid Langove Humayun pointed to a disparity between development and non-development expenses with Rs44 to 154 billion respectively and suggested that this must be rationalised with an increased development budget. He also recommended including security as a key indicator for divisible pool allocations for Balochistan.

The Chief Minister’s Advisor on Education Sardar Raza Mohammad Barrech commented on the bleak educational situation in Balochistan, saying around 12,000, or half, of Balochistan’s schools are still single-teacher multi-grade schools.

Dr Kaiser Bengali said that Balochistan’s upcoming budget will break from traditional budgets in order to ‘change the economic geography of the province’.  Some of the key development projects in next year’s development plan include a revival of Harnai Woolen Mills, coal-based power plants and natural resource development in the province transforming Balochistan into a ‘natural resource economy’.

Participants in the session focused on human development and gender parity figures, the lowest in Balochistan across the country. Some of the key suggestions to improve this situation included equal and judicious distribution of resources, enhanced participation of women in politics, separate women-friendly spaces and facilities for women such as hostels, sports and recreational facilities, educational institutes and the integration of young women in the labour force.