THREE-YEAR PLAN FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

 

9th five year Plan will continue to be held in abeyance

From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI,
 Islamabad

Aug 28 - Sep 03, 2000

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.