Political Masterstroke at the Expense of Development . .

 24th June 2023

               In a display of shrewd political maneuvering, Mir Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo, the Chief Minister of Balochistan, has unveiled a budget proposal for the next financial year that is carefully tailored to appease the wavering allegiance of legislators. While the province’s political landscape remains influenced by external factors and the assembly members lack full autonomy in choosing their leader, Bizenjo understands the importance of securing the unwavering support of his party colleagues and allies, especially with the forthcoming elections in October. Consequently, his government has presented a fiscally expansionary budget amounting to Rs750.5 billion, featuring a massive development program worth Rs313.3 billion, aimed at distributing funds among the legislators. However, this budgetary largesse is likely to perpetuate Balochistan’s unfortunate reputation as a graveyard for development initiatives.

               Balochistan’s development track record is plagued by projects that have failed to materialize or deliver their intended outcomes. Many experienced bureaucrats who have served in the province aptly describe it as a vast “burial ground” for development schemes. The forthcoming development plan, with its proposal for nearly 5,100 new schemes, will only expand the boundaries of this graveyard. While the Chief Minister’s efforts to secure the support of his colleagues are commendable, it is essential to question the sustainability and efficacy of such an approach.

               Moreover, the budget contains numerous populist measures designed to please voters. These include the creation of 4,389 government jobs for youth, provision of laptops and scholarships for students, funding for health cards, elevation of district headquarters hospitals to teaching hospitals, upgrading teaching posts, subsidies for farmers on bulldozers, tractors, and seeds, as well as the provision of subsidized wheat flour and interest-free loans for wheat purchases. Additionally, the budget significantly reduces 43 provincial taxes on hotels, health services, and education, targeting the support of small businesses. Unfortunately, these election-oriented measures come at a time when Balochistan is grappling with severe resource constraints. The government has been compelled to slash its development funding by one-third to Rs127.6 billion in the outgoing year due to the resource crunch. The proposed increase in non-development expenditure next year will only exacerbate the strain on Balochistan’s already scarce resources. While the political climate demands such measures, the province cannot afford this extravagance.

               It is crucial for policymakers to recognize that sustainable development cannot be achieved through short-term political gains. Balochistan’s progress requires a strategic and long-term vision that prioritizes sound economic policies, transparent governance, and prudent allocation of resources. Instead of relying on superficial measures that appeal to voters in the short term, the government should focus on fostering an environment conducive to investment, improving the quality of education and healthcare, and enhancing the productivity of the agricultural sector. The Chief Minister’s political acumen is commendable, but it is equally important for him to consider the long-term implications of his budget decisions. Balochistan needs leaders who can rise above the pressures of immediate political gain and prioritize the sustainable development of the province. It is high time that the focus shifts from appeasing legislators to laying the foundations for a prosperous Balochistan that benefits all its residents, both present and future.

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