14th SDC: Structural problems resist sustainable growth in region

Daily Times, Pakistan, December 16, 2011
Speakers stress opening up minds and doors for discussions of controversial issues

Urge collaboration among academicians and researchers to determine future course

There are structural problems and issues in the systems of governance in South Asia, which offered main resistance against sustainable growth and development in the region.

The speakers at the concluding day of 14th Sustainable Development Conference (SDC) here on Thursday stressed for opening up of the minds and doors for discussions of controversial issues to promote better livelihood within the countries of South Asia.

Dr Nadeem-ul-Haque, Deputy Chairman Planning Commission, the guest speaker at the concluding ceremony of the three-day Conference titled ‘Re-defining Paradigms of Sustainable Development in South Asia’ organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) stressed for collaboration among academicians and researchers in order to determine the future course of action for the country.

“We need practical and creative research agenda to save this country and ensure its sustainable development,” Dr Nadeem-ul-Haque said, “The most unfortunate thing is that majority of research in social sector and economy is being conducted by consultants of donor agencies.” He also launched SDPI’s web television, Sustainable Development Television (SDTV), which is first of its kind initiative in Pakistan and meant to focus the issues and aspects of sustainable development in Pakistan with a people-centred approach.

Meanwhile, speaking as a keynote speaker at the ceremony, Shahid Kardar, former Governor State Bank of Pakistan said structural flaws were affecting the sustainability and causing economic imbalance.

“All issues faced by the country are backed by structural problems,” Kardar said adding, “Pakistan has one of lowest tax collection rate, while the subsidies are high on many things like fertilizers and the state owned entities like PIA and Railways were causing huge losses daily.”

He said it was difficult to manage these issues and the country was moving deeper into debts continuously. “If the provinces cannot tax the agriculture sector. than why is the federal government subsidizing fertilizer, it should be done by the provinces,” he said, adding similarly the electricity consumers of Lahore are bound to pay the line loss incurred by HESCO as people of Sindh were not paying bills. “Let them plug the loss and be sustainable.”

Former Governor State Bank said that to get out of financial quagmire, Pakistan needed strong decisions to tax all those who are eligible for it, and all the players including the government, private sector and civil society has to change lifestyle. “Than only we can ask the masses to render sacrifices,” Kardar said.

In the session on ‘Governance challenges’ the panelists were largely of the view governance is a broader concept than the outdated idea of merely a “Government,” and is achieved through fostering interaction between the three pillars of societal structures namely state, civil society, and private sector or market. They said the role of civil society to observe government actions and induce positive developmental actions is a very critical aspect of the overall development process.

Daniyal Aziz, Governance Institutes Network International, Kaiser Bengali, Member National Finance Commission, Dr G Shabbir Cheema of East-West Centre, USA, Dr Urs Geiser, University of Zurich, Switzerland, Tulasi Sharan Sigdel, Nepal administrative Staff College, Jawalakhel, Nepal and Janaka Hemathilaka, Practical Action, Sri Lanka spoke at the occasion. In the session on “Costs of economic non-cooperation to consumers in South Asia’ Bipul Chatterjee of CUTS International India shared glimpses from a research study conduced in collaboration with SDPI. He said both Pakistani and Indian consumers would gain hugely from cross border trade liberalization. Shafqat Munir of SDPI highlighted a wide disconnect between traded policy formulation and consumers resulting into imbalances in favour of business interests.

In panel “Climate change: Readapting forest management in South Asia”, the experts identified issue of land ownership in forest covered areas as the key reason for forest degradation leading to unemployment and livelihood problems for local communities and food insecurity and poverty elevation globally. They highlighted the need of revision of sectoral policies, participatory and integrated forest management. Dr Parkas Taiwari from India, Dr Bashir Wani and Dr Sultan Rome from Swat expressed their expert opinions.

In the session ‘Regional cooperation for water governance, it was said that all South Asian countries immediately should sign the ESPOO convention. They said Siachen glaciers should immediately be declared as peace-park without any conditions or prerequisites and particularly without any ground demarcating on the ice. Syed Imtiaz Gillani, VC UET, Peshawar concluded there is an instant need to execute the decisions of the International Court of Justice regarding implementation of trans-boundary impact assessment. They said there is an immediate need to rehabilitate degraded watershed in Kashmir for sustainable flow in the rivers so that paradigms of sustainable development in South Asia can be redefined and added our future is dependent on this and India has to open Indian-held Kashmir for Pakistanis to strengthen the peoples-to-peoples contact. staff report.

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