ISLAMABAD: Amid debate on the constitutional status of Gilgit-Baltistan and ahead of elections there on Nov 15, the federal government is launching a five-year development programme for the region.
The Planning Commission on Monday said in a statement that a function in Gilgit-Baltistan “for the first time, deliberated upon the five-year plan/programme developed for various sectors by the Planning Commission in collaboration with the government of GB”. The major sectors in the programme include infrastructure, agriculture, tourism, health, education, higher education, energy and gems and precious stones.
The function, “Socio-Economic Development of Gilgit-Baltistan”, was jointly organised by the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives and the Planning Development Department of Gilgit-Baltistan.
Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission (DCPC), Dr Mohammad Jehanzeb Khan, told the session that government was committed to achieving the objectives of political stability and socio-economic development. “We believe that a stable and prosperous GB can play an important role in the country’s economy,” he said.
The statement quoted the DCPC as saying that the GB development budget was increased from Rs2.5 billion to Rs10bn this year, which was almost four times higher than the previous budget and showed the commitment of the federal government for the development of GB.
Infrastructure, agriculture, tourism, health and education among major sectors in the programme
However, the Planning Commission’s document suggests that development budget for GB remained almost unchanged at Rs17.5bn for the last three fiscal years and then increased to Rs25bn in the current year’s budget.
Dr Jehanzeb said the offices of federal agencies would also be set up in GB soon so that the people living there did not have to visit Islamabad frequently.
Talking about energy issues, the DCPC said the government in collaboration with GB was planning to take certain important interventions such as establishment of a regional grid to reduce losses, evacuate surplus power to other load centres and ultimately provide a foundation for interconnecting GB with national grid.
He said that mineral sector development would be focused upon through strong research and development activities, regulatory framework, resources mapping and deployment of modern technologies.
He said the authorities were also planning to develop tourism as an industry. Several interventions had been identified to harness the potential, such as infrastructure development, legal and regulatory framework, private sector facilitation, comfort of tourists and needs of the local community, marketing strategy and skilled development.
Likewise, the government will focus on community-based sustainable interventions capitalising on the potential local resources, improvement in human development indicators, including health, education, water and sanitation and immunisation.
Dr Jehanzeb said the present government had taken different steps to facilitate public-private partnership in certain mega projects under the Public Sector Development Programme plus (PSDP+) and this tool would be used in GB’s social sector for mainstreaming of vulnerable and socially excluded population.
Collaboration with local and international development partners will be made to seek financial and technical assistance in different sectors. A public-private partnership will be established in the GB Planning and Development Department.
In order to increase productivity in agriculture, livestock and fisheries sectors, cold chain, agro-based industry and food processing industry would be established.
The function stressed the need for a foolproof implementation strategy to realise the proposed plans and programmes realistically, otherwise, it might end up with a long wish list. The participants also emphasised the importance of institutional reforms to play a key role and the functions and roles of the federal and GB governments should also be clearly defined prior to unfolding the five-year plan.
Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2020