Oct 08 - 21, 2007

With a population of 7.5 million people, Balochistan is the least populous province of the country. Though it is area-wise largest, yet it is the least developed province. Its human resources remained unutilized or underutilized. It has no skilled and trained labor to utilize its vast natural resources. Resultantly, its resource potential remained untapped.

Government has laid the economic foundation of the province by launching mega development projects. What is highly needed is to prepare a roadmap for the social development of Balochistan whose social sector indicators are the most challenging in South Asia. It is inevitable to create technical hands, skilled labor, sharp brains and stable minds in Balochistan to survive the future technological boom in wake of the execution of mega projects like Gwadar port in the province.

Human development provides wider range of choices and opportunities to the people for employment. Human capital can provide an impetus for growth and economic development of the province. The poverty reduction objectives are also linked with significant investment in human resource development in the province. Balochistan has not benefited much from the buoyant economic growth and a substantial increase in poverty-related public expenditure witnessed in the past few years in Pakistan. Ironically, the unemployment in Balochistan increased at a time when Pakistan's economy and employment were improving. According to the Labor Force Survey (LFS) 20032004, urban unemployment is 9.7% in Pakistan, and 12.5% in Balochistan. Between 2001 and 2003, unemployment decreased from 8.3% to 7.7% in Pakistan but increased from 7.8% to 8.2% in Balochistan.

The social sector in Balochistan has suffered from years of neglect and under-funding. In the next five-year plan, special attention should be focused on social sector in the province. The factors which have actually limited the scope for financing the social sector development and thus achieving the real development goals in Balochistan are the high debt-service burden, constrained fiscal space, the challenging social sector indicators, constraints in social service provision, and low current investments in the social sector. These factors justify need for higher investments and more efficiency in the social sector.

Human development indicators in Balochistan are the weakest among the four provinces and improvements will need concerted efforts over the long term. The poor are recovering from the devastating drought that plagued the province for the last 5 years. The groundwater is rapidly being depleted. Only 6% of the land is cultivable and productivity is low because of the arid conditions. The predominantly patriarchal social structures are a traditional challenge to human development and gender equity. The rugged and inaccessible terrain, limited water resources for irrigation, large illiterate population, ethnic diversity, and traditional women's status are added challenges to economic growth and human development in Balochistan

Moreover, what have made human development needs more costly and difficult in Balochistan are the factors such as spatial distribution of household poverty, the basic infrastructure, ethnic diversity, gender imbalances, generation-to-generation distribution of poverty, fiscal framework and fiscal traps, physical geography including transport conditions and population densities, agronomic conditions, diseases, ecology, governance patterns and failure, cultural barriers, and geopolitics. These factors, which are absent in traditional economic analysis, must be carefully considered in development planning for the province.

Balochistan has limited room to increase its social sector expenditures partly because of its high debt-service burden. The social sector expenditures mostly go to salaries, while non-salary expenditures are well below the global norms for the efficient and effective functioning of the social sectors. Of the budgeted revenue receipts for FY2005, close to 95% had to come from federal government transfers. The provincial tax base is narrow and limited. The government of Balochistan has a large stock of high-interest debt, and in FY2004, Rs2.6 billion, or 10.7% of its total current expenditure, went to debt servicing.

Under Balochistan Local Government Ordinance 2001, the district governments are primarily responsible for education, health, and water supply and sanitation. However, only salary-related budgets have been devolved to the local governments; the province has retained most of the non-salary and development expenditures for the devolved social services. Understandably, the development effectiveness of the local governments has therefore been reduced.

The government of Balochistan recently conducted the multiple cluster indicator survey (MCIS), which is the biggest survey in terms of its volume and diversity, ever conducted in the history of the province. A total of 10,680 households have been covered. The survey assumes each district of Balochistan as a separate an independent survey unit while Quetta district has been taken as two independent towns. Hence the MICS is a set of 27 independent survey units. A two stage stratified random sampling technique has been used. While 730 Primary Sample Units (PSUs) were selected from the province (71% rural / 29% urban), the 12 households from each urban and 16 from each rural PSU were selected as a secondary-sampling units for the survey.

The main strength of MCIS is to provide effective results that simultaneously gauge a wide range of following indicators for social development; I) Economic status 2) Health and Nutrition Profile 3) Education level 4) Water availability and Hygiene/sanitation practices.

The MCIS is an effective tool developed and tested by different governments of the world in social development sectors with good degree of statistical precision with a representative sample. It is a district-based, cross-sectoral household survey, successfully used in several countries. Efforts must be directed to achieve the following objectives through the MCIS in Balochistan;

* The government must develop a strong advocacy tool and poverty-ranking indicators for reducing the prevalent inter-district disparities and enhancing the delivery of social services in different sectors of society.

* A credible baseline must be established for monitoring the socioeconomic status of the districts to ensure effective devolution.

* The district officials and community leaders should be empowered and motivate through reliable knowledge of critical socioeconomic conditions that define their lives.

* The multi-indicator information must be disseminated for child-focused targets to help monitor progress to the MDGs

* The capacity of the relevant government infrastructure and institutions should be built and enhanced for their active involvement in social service delivery.