The term “development” refers to the general progress and improvement of a community or nation. It considers the economic, social, cultural, and political aspects of growth and change. Development was generally connected with technological advancement and breakthroughs that improved the quality of life in the early phases of human civilization. Agricultural innovation, the creation of writing, and the construction of infrastructure such as roads and houses, for example, were viewed as key developments that enabled society to grow and flourish.
The notion has evolved through time and emphasizes the significance of a multidimensional approach to development that includes economic, social, and environmental factors. In Balochistan, the narrow perception of development has dominated the discourse in the province. The policymakers have focused their efforts only on building infrastructure, thereby ignoring the human aspect of development. The focus needs to be shifted from infrastructure development to human development. This will allow the process of devising strategies that would support the province in coping with its current issues in particular and ensure sustainable development.
There is a dire need to understand the true essence of development– taking the social, human, and economic dimensions of development into consideration for policymaking and shifting their focus from infrastructure development to human development. The government must recognize the relevance of the informal sector and encourage small enterprises to foster economic growth and job creation
The misperception regarding development in Balochistan is primarily due to the lack of understanding of the local context, the needs of the people, the focus on short-term gains, and the lack of human development. Balochistan is rich in natural resources, yet it remains the most underdeveloped region in the country. The concept of development in the province is often misperceived, and the region has failed to achieve the desired progress due to a lack of understanding of the true essence of development. The conventional understanding of development in the province is often limited to the construction of infrastructure, such as roads, hospitals, schools, and other physical structures.
The primary misperception regarding development in Balochistan is the focus on short-term gains instead of long-term sustainable development. This strategy is in practice due to the corruption culture with the name of “commission” that is being promoted in almost every development project. In this context, the tendering and contracting sector in Balochistan has remained the most corrupt sector for years due to the fact that people involved in it demand different kinds of commission. As a result, this brings blessings to the people involved in this process, leaving the general populace underdeveloped in the longer run. This reflects the reason for the priority of infrastructure development which in return is also based on short-term benefits to these corrupt people. Thus, the government must focus on shifting its priorities to implement economically and environmentally sustainable projects that benefit the masses in the long run.
Moreover, the modern concept of development revolves around human development. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP), defines human development as “the process of enlarging people’s choices and improving their capabilities and opportunities for a better life”. In this regard, Balochistan is confronted with serious human development crises. This lack of understanding of human development in Balochistan has resulted in a low literacy rate, high infant mortality rate, and limited access to healthcare, which are significant barriers to progress and achieving sustainable development.
In addition, education is the most critical dimension of human development because it has a multifaceted effect on human life. It not only improves life at an individual level but also paves the way for strengthening societies in achieving economic development. But the current data shows education is the weakest link in the province leading to unemployment, a higher population, and severe conditions of poverty. Furthermore, Balochistan is having 7.4 years of average schooling, which is the lowest in the country. On the other hand, the ratio of teachers in schools is not in commensuration with the international standards, 58 percent of the government schools have just one teacher and it is reported that 10,000 teachers in the province are ghosts. Moreover, 72 percent of boys in many districts do not go to school while 83 percent of girls are deprived of access to basic education. Out of 2.7 million children in Balochistan, merely 0.8 million children go to school which is a concerning issue. Thus, the education system has a limited capability to translate the increased spending on education into better learning outcomes because the authorities are busy designing policies that are focused on the effects, not the root causes.
Health is another significant component of human development. For many years, the health status in Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province, has been a source of concern. Despite being the least populated province of Pakistan it has the tremendous burden of neonatal death rate in the country, at 63 per 1,000 live births. Moreover, with 785 deaths per 100,000 live births, the province also has the highest maternal mortality rate. Furthermore, malnutrition is prevalent, with nearly 47 percent of children under the age of five being malnourished and 16 percent wasted. Healthcare facilities and qualified medical personnel are in low supply, particularly in remote and rural areas. On the other hand, the government has allocated over Rs 45 billion for health in the fiscal year 2021-2022 but despite this huge allocation, the government-run hospitals are showing a bleak picture in coping with pertinent public health crises, which indicates the failure of the effect-oriented approach of the authorities and corruption in the health sector.
Another significant development factor is the standard of living, which is a vital source of human development. In this context, Balochistan is confronted with multifaceted issues. The province is having the highest percentage of people living below the poverty line and unemployment is at its peak, the youth these days after graduation are involved in different informal sector economic activities like smuggling of oil and cars from borders, which result in short-term gains to them, leaving the province confronted with serious revenue issues. The informal sector includes small companies and informal employment, both of which are important to the Balochistan economy.
There is a dire need to understand the true essence of development– taking the social, human, and economic dimensions of development into consideration for policymaking and shifting their focus from infrastructure development to human development. The government must recognize the relevance of the informal sector and encourage small enterprises to foster economic growth and job creation.
To generate employment opportunities, the authorities must promote an entrepreneurial culture to create self-employed people who not only employ themselves but also create opportunities in the province. This can be done by encouraging universities to enhance the relevant skills of the students by making such activities part of every discipline being offered in the university, this will in the longer run bolster the provincial economy in achieving sustainable development.