LAHORE: The Punjab government is going to launch a growth strategy on Friday with special emphasis on regional equalisation in resource and wealth distribution.
With particular focus on southern districts under the Punjab Growth Strategy, the provincial government will reduce variance in development expenditures across the districts by at least 5% per annum. It will simultaneously slash multidimensional poverty in deprived districts to 10% and will try to improve parity in education, health and water indicators by at least 50% over the next five years.
According to the strategy, imbalanced development is a critical challenge. A key determinant of development is public investment, which improves basic infrastructure and ensures provision of necessary services, such as education, health care and water and sanitation.
This, in return, attracts private-sector investment, which results in generation of productive jobs and income leading to growth. It is, of course, not possible that all regions are equal as international economies have successfully gained growth on the model of dynamic cities.
However, the provision of basic services to citizens has been equal. Punjab, unfortunately, due to past investment trends, currently faces stark regional disparities.
“In terms of overall poverty, southern Punjab has remained poor over the last five years. Over 42.03% of the households are poor in the south as compared to 18.98% in central and 26.12% in northern Punjab,” it said, elaborating “between 2014 and 2018, if the government spent Rs100 per capita per annum on the development of Lahore, it only spent Rs26 in Multan and Rs10 in 15 other districts like Bahawalnagar and Layyah whereas Pakpattan district’s share falls to Rs5 per capita.”
In the strategy, the Punjab government says it is committed to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and these stark disparities are a real cause of concern for the government. Moreover, large inequity reduces opportunities for economic growth and results in urbanisation issues as people tend to migrate to the developed regions for better services and economic opportunities.
Punjab’s growth and poverty patterns show that a 1% decrease in the inequity ratio reduces the multidimensional poverty by almost 0.4%. This is a strong result and the government’s strategy will explore different options to reduce the previous inequities among districts.
Strategy to achieve targets
As part of the strategy, the government, under the head of planning and development, will establish a district delivery fund. The fund will use a targeted approach to identify and implement innovative and problem-specific projects designed to end deprivation in the district.
Initially, the fund will be launched for the 10 most deprived districts and the projects will target key SDG indicators in the areas of health, education and WASH. Successful pilot projects will then be scaled up for multiplied impact. It is intended by taking a targeted approach and additional development funds can be channeled into the most deprived districts to bring parity. The government will launch the Southern Punjab Administrative Setup and will post the most competent and delivery-oriented officers there to reduce development deprivation on a war footing. This will also require separate planning and additional development budget for the southern districts.
Moreover, the government will ban any re-appropriation of funds allocated for southern Punjab to other districts.
The government will use spatial mapping to identify key infrastructure gaps in the deprived districts, especially the farm-to-market and connectivity roads, universities, schools and hospitals and technical and vocational training centres. These spatial gaps will be used to make targeted infrastructure investments in the deprived districts.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2019.