Tribal districts uplift

Addressing a gathering in South Waziristan Prime Minister Imran Kjhan made a very ambitious announcement of Rs.100 billion yearly allocations for the execution of projects of socio-economic uplift in merged tribal districts. The announcement seems premature as in the recent meetings of Ninth Finance Commission the federating units have not yet agreed to allocate 3 percent share from the federal divisible pool for the implementation of development programme in these districts. Surprisingly, the one year development package announced by the Prime Minister is 10 times of the 10 years development plan that was unveiled by the then Additional Chief Secretary FATA, SikandarQyum last year before the enactment of legislation of merger of tribal areas with Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. A few days ago, in visit of Quetta, the Prime Minister backtracked on his promise that the government will provide 10 million direct and indirect jobs during five years. He has now advised the youth to start self employment. How can the people of lower middle class start small business when the rate of interest on bank loans has gone up as result of monetary policy of the government?

The line departments of the province lack the capacity of judicious and on time utilisation of development funds and every year over 60 percent allocations get lapsed. The utilisation of increased allocations for the merged districts will be a task near to impossible. The priorities announced for significant improvement in healthcare system are appreciable. But the appointment of specialist cadre doctors in medicine and surgery will be fruitful only when infrastructure in district level hospitals is upgraded with fully equipped operation theaters, neat and clean medical and surgical wards.

No doubt the merged districts have great potential in agriculture, forestry, mining and industry. But the track record of successive provincial governments has been very dismal in exploiting the maximum potential of these sectors in the settled districts.  The construction of small dams went on with snail pace and the same will be the case in tribal districts. Previous PTI provincial government announced mineral and industrial policies in 2016 which are non-starter so far. Mining is still done by blasting the mines with gun powder and the government could not persuade the lease holders to import and use the latest mining technology as per the provisions of mineral policy. The sky-high electricity tariff and power outages of longer durations is another impediment in the establishment marble, furniture industry and fruit processing industrial units. It remains to be seen how does the Prime Minister announcement of tribal districts uplift materialise? And what share of financial allocations is approved for the tribal districts in the next National Finance Commission Award?