ISLAMABAD - Federal Minister Planning, Development and Reform Ahsan Iqbal said that Pakistan attached great importance to its commitments on Stainable Development goals (SDGs).

"Pakistan has accorded the highest priority to goals which will enable it to join the league of upper middle class countries by 2030," he said speaking at the Asia Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD) Bangkok. The forum being held from 3-5 April 2016 is on Regional priorities for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific.

He said the goals include zero poverty and hunger, universal access to health services, education, modern energy services, clean water and sanitation.

The minister said Pakistan was the first country to adopt SDGs 2030 agenda through a unanimous resolution of Parliament as Pakistan Development Goals.

"We believe that SDGs agenda of development isn't an international agenda, it is our own agenda. It reflects our ambition and desire to give our people better quality of life. Therefore, we must take full ownership of SDGs with complete devotion and passion", he added.

He said the government conducted post-Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) consultations with all stakeholders for coordinating and strengthening efforts at federal and provincial levels to achieve sustainable development and poverty reduction targets.

The consultation process indicated the need for national level categorization of SDGs, improved data collection and enforcement of monitoring mechanisms, he added. Talking about the measures for implementation of SDGs, Ahsan said that his ministry has been tasked to prepare a comprehensive national action plan, for policy formulating and implementing national SDGs.

Ahsan Iqbal said that the Vision 2025 provides a comprehensive national long term strategy for achieving inclusive growth and sustainable development. The seven pillars of Vision 2025 are fully aligned with SDGs. The Vision 2025 will strengthen the data collection process and to increase the coverage of household data at the district level. This will enable to monitor the poverty and vulnerability of the population in all dimensions.

At the federal level, an SDGs Monitoring and Coordination Unit, in coordination with UNDP, is being established to serve as a national coordinating entity with similar units in provinces, he maintained.

Ahsan said, "The Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) constitutes government's poverty reduction planning that has prioritised 17 pro-poor sectors including environment, sanitation, health, education, population planning, and rural development.

Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) is established as non profit organization for community-driven development in the country. He said Prime Minister has announced an agricultural package of Rs 341 billion, which is aimed at uplifting of small and medium farmers through the provision of direct cash support, soft loans and introducing new technologies in agricultural sector.

Another revolutionary step for empowering and social uplift of youth, he added, is the "Prime Minister's Youth programme". The programme includes Business Loan Scheme, Interest Free Loan Scheme, Skill Development Programme, and provision of free Laptop Scheme, with a budget outlay of Rs.20 billion.

Iqbal said that institutional mechanism for empowerment of women has been expanded and strengthened. Laws have been promulgated at federal and provincial levels to curb violence against women and sexual harassment at work place.

For education, he said, a national level campaign has been launched by the Prime Minister in partnership with the provinces to bring all out of school children into schools in order to achieve universal primary enrolment by 2018.