Discourse of Development in Balochistan: Politics, Planning and Decision Making.
By Dr. Mir Sadaat Baloch
Balochistan has always been on the development agenda of every political party but sadly we have not witnessed any meaningful development in the region. Development planning should be done with the involvement of focal persons in case of Balochistan the district officers at the grassroots level. However, contrary to this, in Balochistan centralized approach is used, where most of the decision are taken by the provincial capital, Quetta. Mostly, departments do plan without involvement of key stakeholders such as people or private sectors. There is no specific discourse for development in Balochistan.
Apart from this there are other weaknesses in the discourse of development, such as, we can hardly witness any productive debates being conducted for budget allocations. Majority of meetings are rushed, and their sessions are not long enough to ensure that the process is as inclusive and successful as it should be. Finally, a budget document is presented in the assembly for approval without any discussion by the members. Hence, the development turns out to be a mismatch between the people’s need, the required facility, and allocated resources. There is a huge gap between what certain districts actually need and what they get.
To achieve effectiveness discourse in development joint planning is vital. In Balochistan, planning primarily aims to produce a document to be used for implementation only. The planning is fragmented and unshared. The decision makers did not consider the appeals of their public seriously during the planning. We need to understand that interdependency is fundamental for a highly differentiated society like Balochistan. However, the elites are overlooking that interdependency and trying to plan in isolation. Balochistan is not thoughtful about the process of planning. In principle, during the process, all stakeholders should be part of it, this can help the government to define roles and duties clearly and achieve cost-effectiveness. The stakeholders can develop a consensus on common goals of development. Furthermore, stakeholders will take ownership for a decision if they are involved in the process. Planning should be a platform to identify risks and barriers. Preferably, government require ongoing planning and evaluation rather than planning at the start and assessment at the end. Inefficiencies can surface if the processes of planning and decision-making are not handled properly. This turns the focus to the question of how decisions are made in Balochistan.
In Balochistan, decision-making is done by stakeholders that control resources and they can set limits to the process. In Balochistan, authority has been taken for granted, as apolitical, and assumed to be functional. Any action taken under authority is considered impartial and rational. Power holders think that their decision is in the best interest of all the stakeholders because they have authority. The authority holders claim that they would consistently take the best decisions for the benefit of all parties. However, the interpretation of decision-makers fails to represent ground realities; rather it signifies the interest of them first and then the people. This disjointed planning and decision-making have consequences for Balochistan.
This whole scenario is hampering the development of Balochistan. Services and goods to general public are underprovided while in some specific constituencies they are provided in abundance. The politicians are diverting scarce resources to create incentives for themselves to keep the general public dependent and poor. As a result, there is extreme levels of exploitation and corruption in Balochistan that is creating a trust deficit among the people of Balochistan. The political influence is so high that it has changed the basic accountability connection in the province and people go unpunished even after failing a project. This is hindering sustainable development and causing politicization the bureaucracy. This is ultimately obstructing the system and creating governance issue. In order to stay in power, the powerful political actors will hold to this strategy to hold back income growth and social mobility in Balochistan. Political clientelism is discouraging the administration from offering services and goods to public as it serves the interests of powerful political actors that thrive on poverty of Balochistan.
The allocations should be made without any bias and influence as such influence and biases would turn some districts stronger and others weaker. Furthermore, governments of Balochistan should include each district’s local government body to know their need and responsibilities. It is understood that development decisions are getting progressively difficult specially during the times of reduced public sector budget and austerity as the people of Balochistan are demanding more public services. In recent times the public has minimal trust in the political process as they feel limited engagement in any political decision. As suggested during such times we can gain public trust by involving them in the process of planning and decision making. The government of Balochistan need to ensure transparency by providing information about decisions taken.
For discourse creation in Balochistan planning and decision-making should be a platform to build relationships with the stakeholders and people. We must understand that relationship building is not a tool, but a fundamental feature for discourse creation. We have to prioritise relationship building. The process of planning and decision-making could be an operation through which state can create value for their development actions. This shifts the focus to value creation, which would permit stakeholders the prospect of preparing and implementing change.