THE Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s budget for the next year promises to restrain current expenditure and implement a large development programme to create thousands of jobs, reduce the throw-forward of incomplete schemes and extend public service delivery to residents of former Fata (now tribal districts) that has been scarred by conflict. The province has set aside a sum of Rs319bn for development across KP, including Rs83bn for the merged tribal districts. The development outlay is 35pc of the total expected provincial income of Rs900bn, and almost 12pc bigger than the planned development spending of Sindh and just 8pc smaller than that of Punjab. Indeed, the KP government should be commended for restricting its non-development spending to create room for a substantial increase in the allocations for building infrastructure and extending public services to the backward tribal region that had been the hub of the war against terrorism for many years, and where a new ethnic rights movement has attracted a popular following. But does the provincial bureaucracy have what it takes to conceive, plan and execute viable development schemes?
The mess made of the multibillion-rupee Peshawar metro bus project and the throw-forward of schemes that need consistent investments over the next three and a half years to complete is enough to create doubts about the provincial bureaucracy’s capacity to handle development projects. There remains a wide gap between the claims made by the PTI government about development in the province in the last six years of its rule and the ground reality. It desperately needs to focus on building the capacity of its departments to execute projects to prevent the waste of public money because of delays and cost overruns. Apart from that, the province should also prod its tax-collection agencies to raise provincial revenues. Unless the government has the money and capacity to implement its plans, it will not be able to close the development gaps, boost economic growth and improve the quality and reach of public services in the province.
Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2019