The 9th 5 year plan (1998-2003) — not finally approved so
far — has been shelved and instead government is preparing a 3 year rolling
plan to complete important existing development projects as well as to undertake
new projects considered important by the present government.
The newly appointed Minister of State and Deputy Chairman
Planning Commission Dr. Shahid Amjad Choudhry told newsmen after a seminar
arranged by the Ministry of Science and Technology in Islamabad that commission
was working on a 3-year crash programme which will be finalised shortly. He said
the commission was reviewing the policy of information technology (IT) in
particular as the government was keen to develop this sector rapidly. This
sector will receive due place in the 3 year uplift plan being finalised by the
commission these days.
Official sources told PAGE that the 9th five year Plan
will continue to be held in abeyance and will be replaced by a three-year
rolling plan now being finalized jointly by the officials of the ministry of
finance and the Planning Commission.
The 9th plan could not be completed despite the fact that two
years have already passed due to various reasons including inter-provincial
differences and centre/provinces dissimilarity of views on many issues. The
sources said that the construction of controversial Kalabagh Dam has been a
major subject of discord with the provinces specially Sindh and N.W.F.P. which
in fact delayed the finalization of the 9th plan. Both these provinces, sources
said, had been raising serious objections over the proposed huge financial
allocation for Kalabagh Dam. The issue was reportedly taken up in the last
meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC) which was presided over by the
ousted prime minister Nawaz where no consensus could be developed whether to
start or abandon the project.
The present government, sources said, has not decided any
thing over the issue, with the result the launching of the 9th plan was further
delayed and a decision was taken to formulate a three-year rolling plan. The
launching of 9th plan was also delayed because it needed drastic revision in
view of the paucity of funds resulting from sanctions in the post nuclear blast
scenario as well as the dismal performance of economy in the year 98-99 with a
growth of 3.1 per cent as against 7 per cent envisaged in the 9th plan. The
Planning Commission was asked to revise it to make it realistic bringing the
total outlay of the plan from Rs.2859 to Rs.2502 billion and estimated growth
rate to 4.5 per cent from seven per cent. Another reason which delayed the task
of revision was attributed to the uncertainties haunting the officials and
economists in the planning commission because of on-going process of downsizing.
This situation is still persisting as according to a source, being uncertain of
their future, planners and economists are showing least interest in their work.
The 9th 5 year plan was to be launched in July 1998 deferred
from time to time, for numerous reasons, its approval was eventually postponed
to June 1999, that could again not be possible, due to a last minute hitch. Put
off for another two months, it was also hinted by the then Finance Minister that
the Plan would ultimately be launched in the first quarter of 2000. Whatever
happened to the 9th Plan, there is some kind of a vague notion about its having
been party launched. And this is all that there is to it.
Now that almost half of its period of implementation has been
washed out due to a series of postponements, all the effort that has gone into
its preparation will be seen to have ended up as an exercise in futility. And
this ultimately proves irrelevance of our planning to the real need of the
economy. Right from the First Plan, which had to be punctuated with a two-year
Priority Plan, the entire run of planned development, with the lone exception of
the Second Plan, will be seen to have run into difficulties, thus marring its
effectiveness. Now that the new government's economic agenda happens to mark a
bold departure from the objectives and methodology of planning, it will be in
the fitness of things also to restructure the entire planning machinery, not
through by rightsizing" alone. Again, since the experts will undoubtedly be
needed to fulfil the nation's new economic agenda, it may not be advisable also
to dispense with the services of the deserving and talented men already engaged
in the work as assigned to them.
The new Deputy Chairman of the commission should focus his
attention on this aspect and improve the working of the commission if he really
wants finalization of the new 3 years plan within the stipulated period of few
weeks. If it is delayed further, as per past bitter experience of the past, this
plan may also become irrelevant as the half of the 3 years plan period might
have already passed by then.