Public Sector Development Programme and Political Clientelism in Balochistan: The Way Forward

by Mir Sadaat Baloch

There has been a lot of debate on resource allocation because the money involved in the process is the taxpayer’s money and governments are answerable to them at least in case of developed countries. In addition, local governments in some countries have limited resources and they need to get maximum utilization from them. Most importantly, the services offered by local government have strategic importance, as the reason for providing the services is to bring efficiency and growth. If we further analysis the importance of resource allocation during capital expenditure, it can be observed that there is a positive relationship between capital expenditure and growth rate. Scholars argue that public budget allocation plays a significant role in well-being and economic growth of the public, through programs that provides services, such as health and education. In Balochistan the process of resource allocation is best described by the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP).

PSDP is considered as a key component in improving the socio-economic outlook of an area. However, successive governments in Balochistan have failed to streamline it despite repeated directions from the High Court and Supreme Court to plan it in an effective manner. Because the province is experiencing a clientelistic environment that is affecting the overall development of the area.  Ideally, the allocation in PSDP should be based on a prioritisation exercise keeping in view the challenges in the province, however in Balochistan political clientelism is playing a major role. The current mechanism used in Balochistan for development budget allocations can be best described as incremental. Scholars claim that in theory, development budget allocation should be done with the involvement of focal persons in case of Balochistan the district officers at the grassroots level. However, contrary to that in Balochistan centralized approach is used, where most of the decision are taken by the provincial capital, Quetta. There are other weaknesses in the process, such as, we can hardly witness any productive debates being conducted for budget allocations.  Majority of budget 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 budget allocation 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. The main reason for these inadequacies is the practise of clientelism.

The concept of clientelism is a citizen– politician linkages that are commonly based on direct material exchange to small groups or individuals that are eager to sell their vote for the right price. It is an alliance between two entities of unequal power, status, or resources, where both parties reckon it beneficial to have such a relationship. The politicians through it promote a concern that the chain of benefit will break off if the public do not act as par the wishes of their masters. For clientelism to operate in Balochistan it is not necessary that the more powerful political actor take a public office. Even without a public office he/she would still be considered credible enough to promise his/her voter’s access to public resources. The powerful political actors reinforce their influence by giving their supporters traditional favours, that creates a sense of obligation that the favour must be reciprocated in the time need. Access and control over state resources is vital for clientelism.

Political clientelism in Balochistan has the capability to affect resource allocation related projects such as: subsidized health care, pension or unemployment benefits, community infrastructure funds or government jobs. Political actors very effectively reward their followers with resources while others remain excluded. While doing so they find ways to bypass, manipulate or abolish, official procedures of resources distribution. They replace the prescribed standards for selecting recipients of government projects with their own political standards such as party loyalty to say the least.

Clientelism is hampering economic development in Balochistan by diverting scarce resources to create incentives for powerful political actors to keep the general public dependent and poor. There is a consensus among the researchers that it has immense negative repercussions on the functions of democracy, especially on capability of administrations to deliver necessary public services. Apart from this, clientelism has changed the basic accountability connection. The politicization of the bureaucracy in Balochistan is also associated with clientelism. It obstructs the system and creates governance issues for administration.  Clientelist approach is bad for transparency as it discourages information sharing and collaboration. It is attributed as one of the main factors for public sector inefficiencies and larger public deficits. In Balochistan services and goods to general public are underprovided while in some specific constituencies such good and services are provided in abundance. Political parties in Balochistan are more focused to consolidate public resources and then supply it through their private links. This political clientelism not only hampers the economic development but also weakens democratic system and allows pressure groups to consolidate more power. It discourages administrations from offering services and goods to public as it serves the interests of politicians that thrive on poverty and dependency of voters.

We need to understand that it is not poverty that generates clientelism, but it is the other way around; clientelism generates poverty.  In order to stay in power, the powerful political actors in Balochistan have developed a strategy to hold back income growth and social mobility. They discourage delivery of development-enhancing public goods and prefer provision of personal favours resulting a decline in productivity of Balochistan, while increasing the dependence of people on favours from politicians.  This raises the question how resources allocation can be done more effectively in Balochistan?

Most importantly the allocation 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. The government need to adopt a bottom-up approach to understand the real development needs of departments. It is imperative to conduct proper monitoring along with assessment of utilization of money that is allocated to these projects.

The government of Balochistan must use a formulaic approach for development budgeting based on performance, political goals, and fairness. While every political party should have a certain commitment and set promises within its community in terms of addressing their needs. The government to shift away from historical resource allocations and toward resource distribution based on metrics that try to capture the ground reality. A single approach for budgeting would make it difficult for government. We understand that budget 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. During such times we can gain public trust by involving them in the process. The government of Balochistan can decide their level of participation depending on their preferences. They may only inform them through objective and balanced information or can obtain their feedback about alternative opportunities and solutions. On the other hand, the public can be involved throughout the process to understand their concerns and aspirations in a better way. In best case scenario the public and government can work in a partnership and decide the course of action through joint decision making.

However, if the government of Balochistan finds it difficult to engage the public in these traditional ways they can opt innovative ways such as consensuses conferences, planning cells, deliberative polls, citizens’ assemblies, and citizens juries to engage public at a micro level that can also facilitate deliberation and participation. Along with engaging the public the government need to insure that the whole process of PSDP is improved. The government of Balochistan need to ensure transparency by providing information about decisions taken in the process. For a budget to be more effective it should be managed on the following four principles such as: multiyear planning, transparency, public expenditure consolidation and effectiveness and efficiency. It is about time that Balochistan’s resources should be developed in order to reap economic benefits for the 75% population that is living below poverty line not the elite.

 

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