The Planning Commission stated on Monday, at a function recently held in Gilgit-Baltistan, that deliberation has taken place upon the five-year plan/programme developed for various sectors by the Planning Commission in collaboration with the government of GB The sectors in question include agriculture, infrastructure, health, education, higher education, energy, gems and precious stones, and tourism. This function, called the “Socio-Economic Development of Gilgit-Baltistan,” was jointly arranged by the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, and the Planning Development Department of Gilgit-Baltistan.
During it, the Deputy Commissioner of the Planning Commission (DCPC), Dr. Muhammad Jehanzeb Khan asserted that “a stable and prosperous GB can play an important role in the country’s economy.” He was also quoted as saying that the GB development budget has quadrupled in size, from Rs2.5 billion to Rs10 billion, this year. The Planning Commission’s document, however, implies that GB’s development budget remained stagnant at Rs17.5 billion for three consecutive fiscal years, before rising to Rs25 billion in the current year.
The DCPC stressed upon the government’s commitment to bringing political stability and socio-economic development to the region. He also stated that offices of federal agencies would be set up in GB to prevent the need of travel to Islamabad.
Dr. Jehanzeb stated that development of the mineral sector would be based on thorough research and development activities, regulatory framework, resources mapping, and use of modern technologies.
About energy issues, he said that the government intends to collaborate with GB to conduct important interventions. This includes the establishment of a regional grid to reduce losses, divert surplus power to other load centres, and lay a foundation to GB’s eventual interconnection with the national grid.
He also focused on the plan to develop GB’s tourism industry. To harness its potential, lucrative interventions are claimed to be identified. These include infrastructural development, legal and regulatory frameworks, strategic marketing, private sector facilitation, skilled development, and comfort of the tourists as well as the needs of local community.
There will also be focus on increasing productivity in agriculture, livestock and fisheries sectors. This will be done through the establishment of cold chain, agro-based industry, and food processing industry.
The DCPC claimed that the government had taken steps to encourage public-private partnerships for mega projects under the Public Sector Development Programme plus (PSDP+), which would be used in the social sector to help mainstream GB’s marginalized population. He further stated that collaborations with local and international development partners will be conducted to attain technical and financial assistance as needed. A public-private partnership will be cemented in the GB Planning and Development Department.
Alternatively, the government would also encourage community-based and sustainable interventions, utilize local resources, and focus on improvement in human development indicators such as health, immunisation, water and sanitation, and education.
Overall, the need for an effective and realistic implementation strategy for these proposals was stressed upon. The importance of institutional reforms was also emphasized by participants at the function. Ultimately, it was noted that clearly defined roles and functions of the federal and GB governments are necessary for implementing the 5-year plan.