Punjab’s $5b investment plan insufficient

LAHORE: Economic managers of Punjab have termed the increasing population of the province one of the biggest challenges to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

As the latest census puts the provincial population at 110 million, it is estimated that by 2025, the population size will go beyond 125 million, equal to the combined population of the United Kingdom and France.

Feeding so many people by providing them equal employment opportunities and basic necessities with limited resources is a tough task which has to be tackled by successive governments. In this regard, allocations made under the provincial Annual Development Plan (ADP) are the best parameters to judge the response.

The ADP, which was worth Rs20.8 billion in 2000-01, soared to Rs635 billion in 2017-18, a growth of 2,954% in 17 years, the highest compared with other provinces.

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For the first time, the Punjab Planning and Development Department has started documenting the initiatives, results and challenges to better estimate the future needs.

In its 2017 report, it stated that the public-sector investment programme worth $5 billion is not sufficient to meet needs of the rapidly growing inhabitants of Punjab. At best, it can just be used as a catalyst.

The report pointed out that the development of trade channels, energy corridors and associated businesses under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, revival of historic trade routes for better regional integration, consolidating business linkages with China and Turkey and enhanced export competitiveness under the GSP Plus were some of the low hanging fruits that the government was trying to grab with well-articulated policies.

“The government … has minimal space in development projects to promote the private sector, hence it is increasing emphasis on policy space and planning to facilitate the private sector,” the report said. The private sector generates around 90% of the Punjab’s output of goods and services and is the dominant sector in the provincial economy.

In the report, the government said it had set the ground for public-private partnerships as part of which a significant number of projects worth Rs34.38 billion had been awarded to private investors.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 21st, 2018.

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