(Jam Mir Kamal Khan Alyani)
By Nasir Dehwar
Currently, when we talk about Balochistan, we say that how can a province that is so backward, with few human resources, which does not really have a good economy of its own and which has been in a turmoil for the past 30-40 years, how can it come up with things that can be used as examples for other provinces too? I believe that Balochistan has a lot of capacity in terms of its people and there is a will but it has not really been given the right platform for people to come up and show what they can do and perform. So, how do we start? We are lucky that the same changes have come to Pakistan at the Federal level also.
The Prime Minister and his Government, I am not trying to praise the Federal Government for what they can do for Pakistan but what we are witnessing in terms of many subjects, it’s a sign that we are now going towards a good direction and that is we have to put in place systems in Pakistan. There is a need to uplift, update, bring in new legislation, reform the legislative system, bring in new amendments and bring in the right things at the right time. The thing that I am trying to change in Balochistan more than anything else is to decentralize financial authority and administrative authority back to the district level.
Around 20 years back, we used to have this, but for the last 15-20 years, a lot of this was centralized at the provincial level. Balochistan is so big, its 1800 kilometers from one point to the other point. This means 1800 Km, for people to travel to Quetta for access and to get their political, financial and administrative rights, which is very difficult. So, it is important that we decentralize the authorities, the jobs, the financial strings and try to see how the districts are going to manage it. With one order you cannot give one policy to the whole of Balochistan, because every district is diverse. It is unlike Sindh and Punjab, where you can see a constant infrastructure, a way of life and agro-based phenomenon.
Baluchistan is different because at one point you have places which are very rich in agriculture, such as the Naseerabad Division where we have canals, etc. and then when you compare it to Awaran, it’s completely different over there, same goes with Taftan and the Pashtoon belt, everything changes across the districts. So, we cannot put up one policy for the rest to follow.
Jam Kamal Khan said we are doing it in two ways, we are trying to give more financial autonomy to the upcoming Local Governments and at the same time, we are giving financial space to the system organizations such as the Deputy Commissioner, the Health Department, the Education Department, etc. Even in terms of recruitment, we are giving them a new system in which they can recruit their own people. For example, if there is an officer in Khuzdar and he needs 50 teachers to be posted in different schools, now he won’t have to wait for a policy from the provincial government which is announced in the newspaper and which might take another year to be filled in. He can simply go in with the district committee and ask applicants to come in and eventually hire them on a contract basis.
If we talk about the major challenges, the first and most important one is that there is no governance structure or mechanism. Things are mostly dealt with on as per need basis; there is no policy to a specific department that says what the department’s role is, what its goals should be, where it stands and what mechanism it needs to adapt so that it can do much better. The second thing that I am facing is the tight fiscal space we have. For the last fifteen years, the provincial governments that have come in, have accumulated a throw forward of nearly 400 billion Rupees, this is almost $4 billion that we need to complete our ongoing schemes which aren’t even 40% complete yet.
The PSDP (Public Sector Development Program) is one of the main mechanisms which transfer policies into infrastructure both for the Federal Governments and the Provincial Government, so this scheme is really important. But the mechanism that we all have adopted in the last fifteen years has not really been implemented at the ground level. After coming in as a Government, we debuted a committee, which is called the Chief Minister Inspection team to examine the different government schemes. They have seen 800 schemes out of 4000; and out of these 800, 60% do not exist on the ground and only show in the books. So, whatever we are spending, not only are we are spending it wrong but it does not even exist!
The third thing I wish to tackle is the financial mismanagement which has been happening in Balochistan for a very long time, including corruption and issues of transparency and accountability. There was a time, where one cabinet meeting used to happen in eight months. In few months, we have had more than seven total cabinet meetings; we have held cabinet meetings which have lasted for over 12 hours. We are doing more deliberations with departments and have given them short-term, mid-term and long-term targets and strategies, which they should be following in their departments.
If we don’t put in the right things in the system, the result will be negative. If you don’t manage your water system properly, obviously it will deplete. If you won’t spend the public’s money in the right areas, your infrastructure will not benefit the people or the economy. If you are not placing the right people in the education and the health systems, your institutions, facilities, and schools will not deliver up to the mark. So, the whole system needs to be addressed, we have to do an analysis of the system, examine the weaknesses and potential of the system that we have, the areas that needs legislation and financial assistance, the places which lack infrastructure development and all these things clubbed in the right manner and in the right place will then bear the right result.
We have done more legislation in the last five months as compared to the last 70 years. And we have done legislation as basic as; for example, the building code of Quetta which made in 1935, we changed it and brought in a 2018 building code; and the same goes for Health policy and the Education policy. We have brought in the act for Baluchistan Revenue Authority; we have created endowment funds, there have been a few previously, but now we created social endowment funds, with which we can help out people at the community level to give them financial strength, so they can start up with their own businesses. We are bringing in administrative financial decentralization by giving fiscal space to the deputy commissioners and commissioners, who can manage a small number of schemes and requirements of the communities at their own level.
(To be Continued…)