Prudent resource management must to end regional disparities

ISLAMABAD: Regional disparities and uneven development in Pakistan are the areas of particular concern for policymakers for defining goals and achieving the desired results in the economic, social, and geographical contexts, analysts say.
Khalid Mahmood, Chairman Centre of Pakistan and International Relations (COPAIR), said while talking to WealthPK that inequality among provinces, at the district level, and between the rural-urban areas has consequences.
“In terms of urban and rural development, Pakistan exhibits typical dual-structural characteristics. The countryside for any nation makes a great contribution to the process of economic development, but differences between urban and rural development levels cause shortcomings for balanced and high-quality development,” he said.
“To achieve sustainable economic growth, it is necessary to achieve balanced development, as well as the efficient allocation of resources between rural and urban areas. The development of rural areas is imperative to accelerate Pakistan’s economic growth,” he underlined.
Dr Adnan Rafique, Political Scientist and Public Policy Analyst at the Planning Commission, told WealthPK that Pakistan’s four provinces are unequal in terms of area, population, and economic and social development.
He said the geographical structure of Pakistan identifies that most of the large capital cities of the provinces are relatively more developed than other cities. He pointed out that less developed areas are mostly covered in the Balochistan province. He said all these differences at the regional and provincial levels create conflicts and political instability.
“The concerns of the smaller provinces are further exacerbated by the lack of balance in the federal development spending through the annual Public Sector Development Program (PSDP), and in grants given to provinces,” he said.
Dr Adnan mentioned that the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives recently launched a five-year (2022-27) project comprising special development initiatives for 20 poorest districts across Pakistan at Rs40 billion. These 20 districts are selected based on scores in the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), which include 11 Balochistan districts, five Sindh districts, three Khyber Pakhtunkhwa districts, and one Punjab district. More districts are included from Balochistan and Sindh due to massive damages caused by recent floods.
Dr Durre Nayab, Joint Director Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), said Pakistan has faced significant variations in the development process of different regions, which has created disparity within and between different regions of Pakistan. She said the growth of small cities has significant potential. She said a more equitable distribution of investments within a country leads to stronger economic performance.
“We need city-specific policy formulation taking into account the regional, provincial, and national context. Successful national economies today are those where the difference between the socio-economic status of the prime and second-tier cities is small, and Pakistan needs to act on this,” she told WealthPK.
Dr Nayab said pressure on the prime cities in Pakistan can be reduced by looking towards the second-tier cities.
“This would help the economy grow, and that too in a more equitable way. There is a huge opportunity in our second-tier cities — an opportunity that needs to be fast-tracked,” she added.