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Annual development plan delayed

  1. New industrial policy
  2. WAPDA and the IPPs
  3. Annual development plan delayed
  4. Trade deficit increases by 39 per cent
  5. The Dairy industry

Planning Commission's highly trained planners and experts is in the fear of impending shifting of about half of them to the surplus pool

From Shamim Ahmed Rizvi, Islamabad
Mar 06 - 12, 2000

Work has been almost stalled in the planning and development wing of the government of Pakistan because of reports that government has decided to abolish 50 posts of economists working in the Planning wing in different positions for years. This forms almost half of the professionally trained economists working in grade 17 to 20 who are likely to fall victim to the downsizing or rightsizing of department.

Haunted by thoughts of an uncertain future, these planners and economists instead of attending to their duties, are running from pillar to post just to save their jobs. They are displaying least interest in their routine work. As a result even the launch of Annual Development Plan has been further delayed. Appraisal and approval of new projects had almost been stopped. Project monitoring work which even earlier, was in bad shape has further deteriorated. Nothing is heard about the 9th five year plan which was to be launched in the first quarter of the year 2000.

What seems to have generally aggravated the predicament of the over 100 strong team of the Planning Commission's highly trained planners and experts is in the fear of impending shifting of about half of them to the surplus pool. Understandably worried about their future, a delegation of the planners and economists of the commission is planning to call on the Chief Executive, General Pervez Musharraf, to apprise him of the prevailing situation, particularly with regard to the grim prospects of dispensing with the services of such highly trained and experienced professionals in the name of rightsizing. Viewed in this perspective, the whole situation with regard to planning and development as pursued during the recent years, is apt to appear quite intriguing. In so far as the relative competence of the professionals at the Planning Commission is concerned, it does not seemingly figure anywhere in the whole scheme of correcting its size. It will be recalled that some time ago, a restructuring of the Planning Commission had been reportedly on the anvil upon advice of the World Bank, along with the commitment of funds for the task. It had come right in the midst of the Commission's then ongoing exercise in the preparation of the Ninth Plan. Nothing has been heard as to what happened to that scheme. The 9th 5 year plan due in July 1998, was deferred from time for various reasons was finally postponed for first quarter of the year 2000.

The present government has initiated an exercise to rationalize and rightsize the large public sector set up. However, in the economic ministries and divisions, this operation needs to be dealt with utmost care. All the independent professionals have urged for skill development and induction of professionals in the Ministry of Finance, the Central Board of Revenue, Securities and Exchange Commission and the Planning Commission.

As a matter of fact the planning needs more professional and trained economist to discharge its assigned responsibilities in an efficient and effective manner. Its project monitoring wing was hardly functional both for want of trained staff and funds even to meet the TA DA expenses of its members who are supposed to travel to various sites for physical and on the spot checking of projects. All the monitoring reports and summaries are prepared on the various performas provided by the project management which vastly differ from ground realities but are never detected. As a result projects are never completed on time and in the budget initially sanctioned causing colossol loss to the national exchequer.

In July, 1978, the Implementation and Progress (I&P) Section of the Planning and Development Division was re-activated for progress monitoring and a policy letter was issued by the Secretary, Planning and Development Division in September, 1978 indicating the methodology to be followed for progress monitoring of major development projects. The main features of the approach were that projects costing more than Rs. 50 million were to be reviewed through field visits (individually or collectively). The progress monitoring reports prepared by the I&P Section from July, 1978 to Junes 1983 proved very useful in highlighting the specific problems at the project management level and seeking remedial measures. The institutional arrangements were, therefore, further strengthened with the creation of a Projects Wing within the Planning and Development Division in November, 1993, specifically to perform the following four main functions:

I) Project Facilitation/Training;

II) Project Monitoring

III) Project Evaluation; and

IV) Project Computerization.

These provisions however could not be implemented because non-availability of adequate staff and funds to undertake tours of sectors. As a result from over 3700 federal projects, wing could monitor 50. It is worthwhile that instead of sending trained economists to surplus pool their services should be placed at the disposal of project monitoring wing and at least .5 of all development projects in the public sector be earmarked for the monitoring wing to enable thank carry out their assignment in an effective manner.