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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Challenge for the New Government; Constraining its Capacity to Finance – Inadequate Human Resources and Institutional Resource Gap for Localizing SDGs in Pakistan

Dr. Kalsoom Sumra |

The rising income inequalities, regional disparities and gender inequalities vindicate a longstanding demand by the new government to localize the 2030 agenda into a national and sub-national planning budget. The slowly emerging market economies, migration within urban and rural populations etc. are causing the society to extend from vulnerability to terrorism, ultimately leading Pakistan to a vague social exclusion. Pakistan failed to meet most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) due to various socio-political and economic flouts and internal and external security concerns. One of the imperfections in implementing MDGs was the delay in localization. As in 2004, MDGs were officially recognized but the localization was started in 2010.

How Far Pakistan Has Come

Pakistan has recently secured a score of 55.6 under SDGs global index, which is lower than the average of its neighbors like India (58.1) and Bangladesh (56.2). Under UN commitments, the millennium development goals of Pakistan would be measured and the parliament has adopted the national development agenda already to operate under the planning commission of Pakistan.

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What Are Sustainable Development Goals of Pakistan?

Pakistan has defined a list of SDGs to enhance its economic conditions and archiving growth in all dimensions by applying integrated approaches to achieve long term progress.

  1. Poverty

Pakistan’s first sustainable development goal is to eradicate poverty in all its forms by 2030. The SDG can be used to measure poverty and find ways to eliminate it.

  1. Ending Hunger and Food Crisis

Another very crucial SDG for Pakistan is ending hunger by the year 2030. This is to provide relief to the poor and the vulnerable society regarding nutrition and insufficient food, to a achieve high health rate.

  1. Well-being of People

An integrated approach to promote good health and well-being, across multiple sectors of society, that focuses on ending epidemics like AIDS, malaria and polio.

  1. Quality Education

This goal promotes lifelong opportunities for all sectors to achieve learning.

  1. Gender Equality

Gender inequality is a severe issue in Pakistan, which ranks 144 among 145 countries worldwide, suffering from gender injustice, poor health and poor education of women. The goal aims to improve the low status of women.

  1. Clean Water and Sanitation

This goal focuses on the agenda of availability of sustainable management of clean water.

  1. Affordable energy

Pakistan needs better infrastructure and transmission lines for more clean and affordable energy.

  1. Industry Innovation

This goal focuses on building long-term sustainable infrastructure to promote industrialization and bring more talented human resources to enhance innovation.

  1. Sustainable Cities and Communities

This goal aims to increase sustainable and resilient cities by sophisticated urban planning.

  1. Climate Improvement

The climate of Pakistan is changing rapidly; it needs urgent actions to formulate strategies to deal with the impacts of climate in the long run.

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Analysis: How Far Should the New Government Go?  

Based on the lesson learned from Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the state has also realized the importance of SDGs and linked it with its Vision 2025 agenda to achieve economic progress and provide welfare to the people by building upon national strategies and international development goals. The Pakistani government has shown a timely and pro-active reaction in aligning economic policies and development of a structure to SDGs framework. Pakistan currently has a fractured socio-economic structure and flaws in planning and implementation strategies.

The oriented strategy needs to be adopted to achieve SDGs. This move upholds a longstanding demand by Pakistan to emphasize inter-governmental coordination and linkages with various government departments. In accordance with the current structure of governance in Pakistan, the federal government has established a national SDGs Unit in the planning commission to develop and strengthen coordination with the four provincial governments’ SDGs units. In the current constituency, governance SDGs related to social sectors fall under the preview of sub-national capacities and provinces are empowered to plan an executive implementation of the SDGs.

The lack of interest in policy formation by the previous governments has been the major culprit behind the unsuccessful completion of projects. Now, the elections have brought a new government in power that can solve the dilemma of ending stunted growth in Pakistan.

This demands to overcome serious coordination issues for localization and supports that ownership at the lowest administrative tier is the key to SDGs achievement. Pakistan’s statistical departments do not have the capacity to measure the indicators at national and sub-national levels and it needs to be strengthened with training and capacity building in resources. At the local level, data gaps for social indicators are increased and a few indicators are available at the provincial level. The baseline data needs extensive resources to be collected and will need extensive exercise that will require substantial financial and human resources.

Pakistan has always faced difficulty to balance the distribution of resources among provinces and there is always lopsidedness in resource allocation, which leads to inter-provincial rivalries and fabricates alarming challenges. Pakistan is facing a challenge to take on board, all the provinces at the same step. The challenge lies in the coordination mechanism, chaos of ownership, inter-provincial rivalries and lack of coordination between inter-governmental and inter-departmental that are contingent to place SDGs at the center of national, regional and local development.

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For the most part, provincial policies and action plans are not backed by sufficient financial resources. The presence of top-down decision making has hampered the sub-national prioritization. The actions and plans of the government need to be revisited through the budget allocation in social sectors and going through the state’s role in deepening poverty, which extend degradation of ecosystems and expand inequality. The key challenge in the advocacy of SDGs in Pakistan lies in the insufficient availability of adequate human resources and institutional resource gap.

Social indicators remained poor over the last five decades and localizing SDGs in Pakistan is at infancy stage; it is still evolving and the sub-national governments are in the phase of understanding the SDGs goals and targets from the perspective of their own planning vision. The literacy rate in Pakistan is 58% prevailing strong inequality in different regions, 22.3% of Pakistani population was living below the poverty line in 2015, 58% of the population is food insecure and inequality in health indicators in different regions of the country are alarming.

In the current constituency, governance SDGs related to social sectors fall under the preview of sub-national capacities and provinces are empowered to plan an executive implementation of the SDGs.

Pakistan has been ranked the second worst country in the world for gender equality although SDGs endorse women empowerment and gender equality. For localizing said SDGs, the authorized and responsible national, sub-national and local governments entail decentralization of governance functions: it needs to be strong at the grassroots level of the SDGs focal tier. It is unfortunate that the place of local government is not well recognized in Pakistan; looking into the present situation of our local government, different institutional arrangements at the local level are required to implement SDGs.

Given that Pakistan continues to be run without clear long-term directions, it consequently continues to roll along without putting in place the distinct roadmap for localizing SDGs for a promising future. Planning and development departments at the national and sub-national level need to formulate the reformations for governance, indicator settings, coordination and implementation mechanism and allocating financial and human resources for successful localization of SDGs in Pakistan. Most national and provincial policies and action plans are developed without the strong political will and the current institutional capacity needs massive institutional reforms to amplify their capacity for effective implementation of the SDGs.

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How Will the New Government Tackle SDGs?

Achieving the national sustainable development goals are not going to require a miracle. The newly elected government should be able to achieve them by 2030 if they seriously focus on achieving social, economic and environmental goals in comparison with developed countries. The lack of interest in policy formation by the previous governments has been the major culprit behind the unsuccessful completion of projects.

Now, the elections have brought a new government in power that can solve the dilemma of ending stunted growth in Pakistan. The private sector should not hesitate to join hands with the government, because they are placed well in some areas to support our government in their ventures.

Dr. Kalsoom Sumra is currently working as Assistant Professor at Center for Policy Studies, COMSATS University Islamabad Pakistan. Her current research interests focus on Local Government, New Public Management & Urban Governance, Public Policy, Social Equity, Fairness and Sustainable Management, Social Responsibility, Public Services Ethics. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.