Transparency in development expenditure
Speaking at a Grand Jirga of tribal elders Governor Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, Shah Farman has disclosed that a 10 member committee of tribal elders shall be formed to ensure transparency in expenditures that are to be made on the projects of socio-economic uplift in the merged tribal districts. The proposal of transparency committee is worth appreciation but it implies that the Governor is still functioning as chief executive for tribal areas even after FATA merger.
In the past the pace of socio economic uplift remained slow in the tribal belt due to misappropriation of funds, lopsided development priorities, lack of community participation in the selection of development projects and capacity issues of line departments. The major causality used to be social sector development. The agency headquarters and subdivision level hospitals lacked the required health infrastructure and these hospitals functioned as mere referral centers. Quality of education in schools and colleges was not at par with similar institutions in the settled districts.
Agriculture and horticulture could not flourish due to lack of smooth supply of water as the construction of small dams on the potential sites had been constantly ignored. Had the water conservation projects been given due priority in development strategies and planning, the production of cereal crops, vegetables and fruits would have been increased substantially. It would have also paved the way for the establishment of agro-based industries and generated significant economic activity.
The tribal districts are rich in exotic mineral resources. A plan was conceived in 2003 for establishing Reconstruction Opportunity Zones for setting up export product producing industries, consuming the locally available inexpensive raw material like marble and soapstone but the plan did not materialise because of different reasons. It is not clear as to whether any of the tribal districts can get an industrial zone under CPEC. A mining policy had been announced for the tribal areas before FATA merger which will now become part of the mineral policy of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. Mining activities in the tribal districts are still carried out with the application of crude technology in violation of mining policy.
According to the chief Minister Mahmood Khan, Pakistan Army has given Rs.50 billion from its budget and Khyber Pukhtunkhwa government has allocated Rs.11 billion during the current fiscal year for the development of tribal districts. The transparency in the spending of development funds can be instrumental in fully integrating these districts into the mainstream of the country. Let us hope that from now on the development funds for the tribal districts shall be utilised judiciously and honestly.