ISLAMABAD: Terming the existing SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) targets unrealistic, a ruling party’s parliamentary secretary advocated binding all provinces to agree and deliver on improving basic health and human conditions in the light of local conditions.
Speaking to a group of journalists on Monday, Kanwal Shauzab, the parliamentary secretary of planning and development, said the 18th Constitution Amendment did not mean allowing the provinces to become ‘states within the state’ and they should be bound under Article 25 of the Constitution as to what they ought to do under the development agenda.
“Instead of being unanswerable to international agencies, the ADPs (annual development plans of the provinces) and PSDPs (public sector development programmes of the Centre) should be based on needs of the local people” to be responsive to basic human requirements, she said, adding that the funds should not be given to MNAs and MPAs to spend here and there on untargeted programmes without measuring outcomes.
She said the PTI government would have to change the definition of development budget from mega infrastructure like roads and building projects and shift the focus of spending directly on the people by addressing root causes of poverty and hunger.
Kanwal says 18th Amendment does not mean allowing provinces to become ‘states within the state’
Giving an example of just one hospital of Bahawalpur in south Punjab, Ms Shauzab said a total of 1,380,000 patients visited the outpatient department (OPD) and 85pc of them were referred to dialysis centre, which meant the quality of water and nutrition conditions of the country were to blame.
She said motorways passed through the area, but the people on both sides did not have the access road to reach the hospital or take their produce to the market.
In such conditions, she said, the people of the area were demanding hospitals and more dialysis machines. The need under the SDGs should be to address the water quality and ensure its supply to all to eradicate water-borne diseases rather than only building hospitals because by the time a hospital became operational the need for 10 more hospitals would arise.
She said the objective of the SDGs should not be to leave anybody behind and problems of poverty, hunger and nutrition should be addressed on a top priority basis. The imported agenda of SDGs would not resolve the issue of poverty and hence the SDG targets should be reframed in the light of local conditions.
Ms Shauzab said reprioritisation of development programmes should be done to achieve social sector goals, but there were interest groups everywhere that promoted foreign-sponsored agendas and projects.
She said the Voluntary National Review (VNR) for SDGs would be ready by June this year as work was under way in consultation with all stakeholders for achieving desired goals under the SDGs. But, she added, Pakistan had not yet worked out the exact financing requirement attached to achieve the SDGs and to achieve these goals without the commitment from the international community for financing seemed really too much ambitious.
She said the people of the country were missing from development priorities as infrastructure development was the top priority at a time when human development conditions were showing prevalence of an alarming situation.
Ms Shauzab said the Planning Commission was working on developing civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) for identification of 30 per cent gap in “our data to help achieve the SDGs by 2030”.
She said that CRVS was the compulsory, continuous, universal and permanent recording of all vital events such as birth and death. From these records, vital statistics on birth, death, cause of death, fertility and mortality (where migration data is also available) could be produced for policy and planning.
It could help in connecting data from birth registration to all important events of all individuals’ life for achieving the SDG targets and tracking all other requirements and obligations.
Ms Shauzab said that it was impossible to achieve the SDGs when acute poverty prevailed in several parts of the country, especially in south Punjab and interior of Sindh.
In reply to a question about the cost for achieving the SDGs, the parliamentary secretary said that work was under way along with stakeholders, but being a signatory to all goals on behalf of Pakistan, the federal government would have to re-prioritise the development requirements even after the enactment of the 18th Amendment