Reform in governance; Ahsan Iqbal addresses Woodrow Wilson Center

Nov 11, 2013| Courtesy by : pn.com.pk

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Washington DC – Reform in governance and innovative solutions to challenges associated with rapid urbanization will form the core of Pakistan’s efforts towards meeting exponential development needs, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms told a conference. The daylong conference was organized by Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and attended by some of leading experts on Pakistan Galloping Urbanization.
Professor Iqbal noted that Pakistan is the fastest urbanizing country in South Asia, with a range of cultural, economic and governance implications.
Dynamics like freedom of expression, consumerism and quick advances in technology are also impacting the scenarios in both urban centers and rural areas. Reform will be a constant part of governance. However, it is the emerging middle class that would be the game-changer.
Sketching out ways to deal with challenges, the minister referred to long-term vision under 2025 plan as well as immediate steps like attracting talent to build governance capacity at local levels, plug the gap between supply and demand and ensure inclusive growth.
He said in the recent past, particularly in the post-2001 years, when the country witnessed sudden influx of foreign exchange, a woeful lack of planning hurt the country. In this context he noted that the energy crisis is holding back Pakistan’s economic growth by at least two percent.
Iqbal said Pakistan’s 13 cities with more than 0.5 million population demand much planning attention and with a population growth rate of 2 percent the country needs to chalk up at 6 to 7 percent economic growth rate in order to meet imperatives of development, job generation.
He expressed the hope that the local bodies election, which he said should be held after national elections, would help in addressing some of the challenges at the basic tier of governance.
The government, he said, plans to replicate Lahore metro bus transit in other cities, as the facility has had very positive results in terms of time and economics in the Punjab metropolis.
Despite facing a string of challenges, Pakistan has now in place some very strong foundations that belie frequent labeling of the country as a failing state, he remarked.
He counted movement for the rule of law, independent working of the judiciary, a growing countrywide consensus on the Constitution being determinant of the future direction of the country, consensus on strategic direction of the country that includes efforts towards peaceful relations with neighbors India and Afghanistan, democratic continuity with maturity of political actors to compete and cooperate simultaneously, freedom of expression and the media and engagement of the people as signs of good health for the Pakistani state.
As part of 2025 program, Pakistan will pursue energy security, develop internal drivers of the economy, encourage advancements in fields of science and technology, focus on social and human resource development, go for value addition in agricultural products and improve service and industrial sectors, and build infrastructure.
The conference speakers included Murtaza Haider, Ryerson University, Canada, Nadeem Ul Haque, former deputy chairman, Planning Commission, Nadeem Hussain,Tameer Microfinance Bank, Sania Nishtar,Heartfile Mohammad Qadeer, Queens University,Aun Rahman,Harvard University and Tasneem Siddiqui,Saiban.
Charge d’Affaires at the Pakistan embassy, Asad M Khan accompanied the Minister at the conference.
Director Woodrow Wilson Center’s Asia Programme, Robert Hathaway, Michael Kugelman, senior program associate for South Asia, William B. Milam, Senior Scholar, and former ambassador to Pakistan, Khurram Husain, current Pakistan Scholar at the Center, and Blair Ruble, director, Program and Global Sustainability and Resilience, chaired discussion sessions of the conference, which was attended by some top experts on South Asia including Dr. Stephen Cohen and Dr. Marvin Weinbaum.

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