QUETTA - In its forthcoming budget for FY2014-2015, Balochistan must introduce structural changes in developmental planning and resource allocation with increased focus on communication infrastructures, education, health and water management — incrementally transforming Balochistan from a pastoral economy to knowledge and natural resource-based economy.

It was also reiterated that the incumbent coalition government of Balochistan needs to develop a comprehensive strategy to use the legislative, fiscal, policy, planning and administrative spaces provided by the 18th Constitutional Amendment and 7thNFC Award more effectively and efficiently. The upcoming budget should reflect the commitments by the ruling parties made in their election manifestos.

These were the key resolutions at a pre-budget seminar on “Balochistan Budget 2014-2015: Consultative Dialogue on Equitable Allocation for Development” held here on Tuesday. The day-long  interactive dialogue was jointly organized by Search for Common Ground (SFCG) Pakistan, Strengthening participatory Federalism and Decentralization project of UNDP -  Pakistan, Balochistan Chief Minister’s Policy Reform Unit (CMPRU) and AID Balochistan. Executive Director SFCG Pakistan, Ammara Durrani and Chief CMPRU, Dr. Kaiser Bengali, moderated the dialogue proceedings.

High level government representatives, noted economists, political party representatives, civil society, media and other key stakeholders attended the seminar that involved robust dialogue on trends and results of budgetary spending in Balochistan, with an emphasis on fostering fiscal planning and effective devolution management for sustainable development of the province and its population. The recommendations of the consultations will be shared with the Finance Department, Balochistan for its

consideration to integrate into the forthcoming Provincial Finance Bill 2014-2015.  The seminar started with a detailed presentation on Balochistan’s fiscal situation by CMPRU that informed that post-7th NFC Award, Balochistan’s annual receipts from divisible pool has increased from Rs60 to 120 billion after the end of FY2009-10.

Speaking at the opening session, Khalid Langove Humayun, Advisor to Chief Minister on Finance pointed towards disparity between development and non-development expenses with Rs44 to 154 billion respectively and suggested to rationalize it with increased development budget. He also recommended including security as another key indicator for divisible pool allocations for Balochistan.

Chief Minister’s Adviser on Education Sardar Raza Muhammad Barrech pointed towards the bleak educational situation in Balochistan and informed that unfortunately, half of Balochistan schools, around 12000, are still single-teacher multi-grade schools. He opined that quality education is the key to development in Balochistan and the incumbent government has allocated increased funds for education in coming budget. Dr. Kaiser Bengali said that Balochistan’s upcoming budget with increased focus on structural reforms will be a break from traditional budgets that will change the economic geography of the province.

Some of the key development projects in next year development plan include revival of Harnai Woolen Mills, coal based power plants and natural resource development in the province transforming Balochistan into a ‘Natural Resource Economy’.

Chaired by Balochistan Minister for Planning & Development, Hamid Khan Achakzai, the final session of the seminar featured a wide-ranging discussion on education, youth and gender budgeting with specific inputs and perspective from political parties and sector specialists. Speakers included Dr. Iffat Ara (SPDC), Raheela Durrani (PML-N), Baela Raza Jamil (ITA), Usman Kakar (PKMAP), Dr. Shama Ishaque (NP), Dr. Jehanzeb Jamaldini (BNP-M), Haroon Durrani (Aurat Foundation), Sadiq Umrani (PPP), Dr. Ishaque Baloch, Policy Coordinator CMPRU,  and Abdul Khaliq Hazara (HDP).

Participants in the session reminded that human development and gender parity figures are lowest in province and upcoming budget must emphasize upon innovative financing for human development in the province.

Some of the key suggestions included equal and judicious distribution of resources, enhanced women political participation, separate women friendly spaces and facilities for women such as hostels, sports and recreational facilities, educational institutes and mainstreaming young females in labour force.