Balochistan’s PSDP: A Recipe For Failure Without Research, Needs Assessment, And Proper Planning – OpEd


Development is a global concept that includes political, economic and social aspects. Despite traditional paradigms focusing on economic development, a modern agreement recognizes that development encompasses a wide range of factors, including social, environmental and human well-being. Nations adopt different models and mechanisms to achieve their goals, highlighting diverse paths to development. Different models and mechanisms are being used in the world for the development of their countries.

Balochistan, the largest province of Pakistan, is perceived to be rich in natural resources and cultural heritage. Despite its potential, it faces significant development gaps and lags behind from other provinces in development. Balochistan has used a combination of development models and mechanisms to address its diverse needs and challenges, adopting strategies and mechanisms based on government policies, political dynamics and evolving priorities over time.

One of the key mechanisms the government of Balochistan utilizes is the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) for implementing development projects. It allocates and manages funds for various initiatives, serving as the primary framework for directing public funds towards projects aimed at achieving developmental goals.   But its effectiveness is hindered by a lack of proper research, need assessment and proper planning. This approach, similar to building a house without proper knowledge of terrain or materials, is a recipe for failure.  It means millions of rupees are allocated for the development sector every year, but demonetization is only seen on paper. The completeness of any development program, including the PSDP, relies on its research, needs assessment, and planning stages. 

Actually, planning is the process of developing goals and devising strategies to achieve those goals. Organizations and governments all depend on it. On the other hand, planning is ineffective without research and need assessment. The process of obtaining information on a problem is generally called research. The process of determining the needs of an organization or population is known as needs assessment. Both research and needs assessment are essential to effective planning because they help to guarantee that plans are based on reliable information and meet the real needs of those who are intended to benefit from them. Research can help planners understand the current situation, identify trends, and identify potential pitfalls and opportunities. A need assessment can help planners identify and prioritize the unique needs of the people they are planning for.

Without research, assessment, and proper planning, the primary consequences of this oversight are the misallocation of resources. Projects are often initiated without a clear understanding of the specific needs and priorities of the people. This misalignment results in the inefficient utilization of public funds and, at times, the abandonment of projects mid-way due to their lack of relevance or feasibility.

Moreover, projects launched without a thorough understanding of local needs and goals can lead to inefficiency, ineffectiveness, and failure to achieve substantial improvements in targeted individuals’ lives. This misallocation of resources can lead to projects not addressing the people’s most urgent needs.

In the absence of proper need assessment, Balochistan often feel excluded from the development process. They are not consulted or engaged in decision-making, leading to feelings of alienation and resentment. Development should empower local people, not marginalize them. When people are overlooked, the projects meant to benefit them can become sources of contention rather than progress.

Furthermore, the failure to conduct comprehensive research hinders the economic potential of the province. Balochistan is perceived to possess vast untapped resources, from minerals to agriculture to renewable energy. Properly harnessing these resources requires thorough research to identify opportunities and challenges. Without such research, the province misses out on opportunities for economic growth and job creation.

Here, a question arises: why does the government of Balochistan not conduct proper research and need assessments and effective planning before preparing PSDP? There are three basic reasons that are causing problems: first, a lack of experts such as researchers, project managers, planners, financial analysts, and monitoring and evaluation specialists. This can lead to poorly planned efforts that do not effectively fulfill people’s needs. Furthermore, a lack of technical expertise can lead to a lack of monitoring and inspection, making issue identification and resolution challenging.

Second, due to the political interference from MPAs is causing projects to be prepared without proper research, need assessment, and planning, threatening the development of Balochistan and leaving the province in an everlasting state of underachievement. Politically motivated project selection often leads to resource misallocation, hindering overall development by diverting resources from truly needed projects to those catering to political agendas. Professionals and experts often face sidelining in project planning due to political connections. Politically motivated projects often yield short-term political benefits but fail to provide sustainable long-term benefits, hindering the progress of the province.

Third, most of the projects in Balochistan, which are meant to bring prosperity and improve the quality of life for its people, seem to exist primarily on paper. Promises are made, budgets allocated, and plans drawn up, but on the ground, progress is often painfully slow or non-existent. This lack of tangible development is a stark reminder that corruption has taken root in the province’s institutions and bureaucracy. Corruption in Balochistan has been a persistent issue for a long time, hindering the province’s development and perpetuating poverty and underdevelopment. The consequences are severe, impacting education, healthcare, infrastructure, and daily life for the people of the province.

A lack of sufficient research and planning for the PSDP in Balochistan has a lot of negative effects. First, it wastes resources. Second, it may result in the building of initiatives which are not genuinely needed or that are not viable in the long run. Third, it can lead to corruption and nepotism.

To address these issues, PSDP planning in Balochistan must take a more strategic approach. This should include comprehensive research to determine the needs of the people and the province, as well as the preparation of a long-term development strategy. It is also critical to ensure that the PSDP is used to support projects that are long-term and will benefit the people of Balochistan.

Balochistan deserves a PSDP that reflects its diversity and potential. It deserves a development agenda informed by data and research, not driven by political expediency or ad-hoc decision-making. Balochistan can play a pivotal role in national’s development, but to unlock its true potential, we must prioritize the comprehensive research and need assessment that it deserves.

The rampant corruption that devours funding for development projects in Balochistan is a grave concern that cannot be ignored any longer. The people of Balochistan deserve better; they deserve the opportunities and improved quality of life that these projects promise. It is time for a united effort to root out corruption and ensure that development projects become a reality, not just on paper but in the lives of Balochistan’s people. 

The Public Sector Development Program is crucial for Balochistan’s development, but its success depends on proper research, need assessment, proper planning, and community engagement. The current recipe for failure can be transformed into a recipe for success, but it requires a commitment to change and a dedication to the people it serves. We should ensure that the benefits of development reach every corner of this remarkable province.  Balochistan deserves nothing less.

Dr. Siraj Bashir

Dr. Siraj Bashir (Ph.D.), Director Research/Editor BTTN Journal, Balochistan Think Tank Network (BTTN)

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