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Unlocking Balochistan’s Socio-Economic Potential
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Balochistan is the largest and least populated province of Pakistan, covering 44% of the country’s total area. Balochistan is endowed with abundant natural resources, such as minerals, gas, fisheries, and forests, but also faces multiple challenges, such as poverty, underdevelopment, insecurity, and insurgency. The socio-economic development is a key issue for the province and the country, as it has implications for the well-being of the people, the stability of the region, and the relations with neighboring countries, especially China.

According to socio-economic indicators, Balochistan lags behind other provinces of Pakistan in terms of development. According to Balochistan Comprehensive Development and Growth Strategy (BCDGS) 2021 – 2026, Balochistan has the lowest HDI value of 0.421, compared to the national average of 0.562. It also has the second highest MPI value of 0.402, after the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), indicating that 40.2% of the population suffers from multiple deprivations in health, education, and living standards. Balochistan’s GDP per capita is also the lowest among the provinces, at PKR 178,000, compared to the national average of PKR 247,000.

Balochistan’s socio-economic development is influenced by various factors, such as the political, security, and environmental situation, the governance and financial management system, the allocation and utilization of resources, and the participation and inclusion of the people. Some of these factors are positive and supportive, while others are negative and hindering. For example, on the positive side, Balochistan has a strategic location and a potential to become a hub of regional connectivity and trade, especially through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which aims to enhance the infrastructure, energy, and industrial development of the province. Balochistan also has a rich and diverse culture and heritage, which can be leveraged to promote tourism and social cohesion. It also has a young and vibrant population, which can be empowered and skilled to contribute to the socio-economic development of the province. On the negative side, Balochistan faces a complex and protracted conflict, which involves various actors and interests, such as the Baloch nationalist groups, the Taliban, the Islamic State, and the foreign powers. The province also suffers from poor governance and corruption, which undermine the transparency and accountability of the public institutions and the service delivery to the people. Balochistan also faces a severe environmental crisis, which is exacerbated by the effects of climate change, such as droughts, floods, and desertification.

Balochistan’s socio-economic development requires a holistic and integrated approach, which addresses the root causes and the structural issues of the province, and ensures the participation and inclusion of the people and the stakeholders. Some of the possible strategies and interventions for Balochistan’s socio-economic development are as follows:

  • Developing a comprehensive and inclusive development vision and plan for the province, which is aligned with the national and international frameworks, such as the Vision 2025, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the CPEC. The development vision and plan should be based on a participatory and consultative process, which involves the provincial and local governments, the civil society, the private sector, the academia, the media, and the communities. It should also prioritize the key sectors and areas of intervention.
  • Improving the governance and financial management system of the province, which is responsive, accountable, and transparent. The governance and financial management system should be reformed and strengthened, by enhancing the capacity and performance of the public institutions and the civil servants, by promoting the rule of law and the access to justice, by combating corruption and nepotism. The governance and financial management system should also be monitored and evaluated, by using the evidence-based and participatory tools and mechanisms, such as the Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability (PEFA) framework, the Citizen Report Card (CRC), and the Social Accountability Framework (SAF).
  • Increasing the allocation and utilization of resources for the socio-economic development of the province, which is equitable, efficient, and effective. The allocation and utilization of resources should be based on the needs and priorities of the province, and the potential and comparative advantages of the province. The allocation and utilization of resources should also be informed by the cost-benefit analysis and the impact assessment of the projects and programs, and the feedback and satisfaction of the beneficiaries and the stakeholders.
  • Enhancing the participation and inclusion of the people and the stakeholders in the socio-economic development of the province. It should be ensured, by creating and enabling the platforms and spaces for the dialogue and the consultation, by respecting and protecting the rights and the interests of the people and the stakeholders, by addressing and resolving the grievances and the conflicts of the people and the stakeholders, and by recognizing and celebrating the diversity and the identity of the people and the stakeholders. It should also be promoted, by empowering and engaging the women and the youth.

In conclusion, Balochistan’s socio-economic development is a crucial and urgent issue, which requires the collective and concerted efforts of the provincial and national governments, the civil society, the private sector, the academia, the media, and the communities. Balochistan’s socio-economic development can be achieved, by developing a comprehensive and inclusive development vision and plan, by improving the governance and financial management system, by increasing the allocation and utilization of resources, and by enhancing the participation and inclusion of the people and the stakeholders. Balochistan’s socio-economic development can be a win-win situation for the province and the country, as it can improve the well-being of the people, the stability of the region, and the relations with the neighboring countries, especially China.

Iqra Awan is a Research Fellow at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad and can be reached at iqraawann18@gmail.com

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