Published Date: Dec 12, 2013
Vision, vision everywhere!!!
Ahsan Iqbal is a man of big plans. At the launch of SDPI’s sixteenth
sustainable development conference this Tuesday, Iqbal said Pakistan’s
and South Asia’s "developmental model has to be compatible with social
and cultural values of South Asia”. He added that development shouldn’t
only be seen from the limited lens of GNP or GDP; instead “we should
have a gross national well-being index".
These are noble thoughts indeed; ideas of well-being-ness or of
gross national happiness are not just being followed by Bhutan, but the
likes of France and other European economies have also been thinking
along these lines. France had in fact commissioned Nobel laureates
economists Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen to devise an index that
addresses the shortcomings of the GDP.
But, for a country that has not had population census since
1998; that does not know how many poor people it has to support; that
doesn’t have quarterly GDP data releases to date; that has little clue
of its provincial GDP numbers or provincial trends in CPI inflation; and
whose two-fifth of GDP is actually undocumented—the talk of developing a
gross national well-being index is just too lofty of an idea.
Still, ideas matter, and perhaps in a hundred years, when
Pakistan will be able to achieve its strategic visions, the government
of Pakistan can task the Planning Commission to arrive at such romantic
indices. Meanwhile, the government has to do a few earthly things.
These include strengthening the institutions of governance so that plans
can be implemented and fruits can be reaped.
In the words of Marc-André Franche, Country Director UNDP, who
was chairing one of the sessions at the conference, the successful
implementation of a strategic vision requires strong political
consensus; it also requires sticking to the plans; and it also requires
transparency and effective communication for the same.
And speaking of transparency and effective communication, Ahsan
Iqbal and his team at the Planning Commission would do well to take a
leaf out of Indonesia where they have a periodic performance review of
the plans published in the form of a report, which also sheds light on
the rationale of any paradigm shift in the plans.
This implies that for the sake of transparency and effective
communication, the Planning Commission should inform the public as to
how and why the Vision 2025 will be different from Vision 2030 prepared
in 2007 and FEG prepared in 2011. And, if it is not different, then
what’s the purpose of this exercise. In absence of any such explanation,
the whole exercise may be perceived as something aimed to add a star to