Opportunity cost: Experts call for prioritising sustainable development goals

Published: June 12, 2015
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Debt service, defence spending leave little for development. CREATIVE COMMONS

Debt service, defence spending leave little for development. CREATIVE COMMONS

Experts, academics and a parliamentarian while admitting that Pakistan has failed to achieve almost all the millennium development goals (MDGs), called for prioritising sustainable development goals (SDGs). Though the country was off-track on the MDGs and achieving SDGs looked impossible, it could prioritise goals, Dr Durre Nayab, head of the Department of Health Economics said while speaking at a two-day workshop that concluded here on Wednesday, said a press release.

The workshop on “Moving from millennium development goals (MDGs) to sustainable development goals (SDGS): Policies and options for Pakistan” was organised by the Department of Development Studies, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (Pide) in collaboration with the Higher Education Commission.

Dr Nayab said focus should be on six gaols to start with, particularly reducing hunger and poverty among others.

Member National Assembly Dr Nafisa Shah said that with debt servicing and defence taking up most of the budget very little resources were left for development.

The Pakistan People’s Party parliamentarian added that the situation occurred mainly due to lack of coordination between different departments and ignorance of state functionaries.

She said that although the country had failed to achieve the MDGS, it could achieve the SDGs but only if instead of competing with others it promoted friendly ties with countries such as Afghanistan.

Shah said that Pakistan needed to follow “the Chinese model” since it was facing genuine security challenges and the Western double standards. She said that China’s progress in terms of its foreign policy was remarkable as it focused on cooperation rather than conflict.

Dr Rehana Siddiqui, a professor of economics at the institute said that financing of the SDGs was a major issue for developing countries such as Pakistan. She said that the policymakers did not have clear targets and they must start thinking about how to achieve those goals.

The UN Women Country Representative Jamshed Kazi highlighted the SDGs pertaining to gender equality. He stressed that while MDGs talked of promoting gender equality, the SDGs talk of achieving gender equality. Kazi mentioned that freedom from violence, gender equality in capabilities and resources and gender equality in decision-making in public/private institutions were three main components of SDGs gender goals.

He said that in Pakistan, 48 per cent of the women were unable to decide independently on their healthcare.

Kazi emphasized that with investment in research, cultivating a meaningful education system, engaging private sector, youth and religious leaders, nurturing grassroots women organisations and recognising and re-distributing unpaid care work, were few of the measures with which Pakistan could optimise SDGs for women and girls.

Earlier in her opening remarks, on the first day of the workshop, Dr Feriyal Aslam, head of the Department of Development Studies, said that the workshop was envisioned to both highlight pertinent research areas for Pakistan’s sustainable development and to develop and enhance partnership of the public sector with international development organisations and the civil society.

On the second day of the workshop, the Department for International Development (DFID) Pakistan Head Dr Richard Montgomery expressed his optimism about the MDGs from the global perspective.

He said that the last 25 years had witnessed more development than in any other era. Montgomery said that science and technology, economic management, international cooperation, quality of governance and institutions, and reduced conflict were the five big drivers of transformation.

He said that SDGs were more universal and comprehensive in approach.

Sarwar Bari, an activist spoke about disaster-risk reduction and poverty. He was of the view that most of the disasters were man-made and stressed the need for eradication of the poverty of opportunity and capability that would enable people to deal with the disasters on their own.

In the closing session, Dr Huma Haque, senior anthropologist spoke about homegrown solutions and localisations in the context of SGDs.

She was of the opinion that Pakistan needed to do some critical evaluation and should focus on the dependency school of thought that emphasised investing in indigenous knowledge system rather than believing in aid.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 12th, 2015. 

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