The federal government’s proposed fund allocation Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) has both positives and negative and if the funds are deployed properly, might primarily lead to benefitting the agricultural sector. The PSDP is the main avenue of funding for development programmes and projects in the country and if deployed wisely, can lead to lasting human development in the country.

After the devolution of health and education to the provinces under the 18th amendment, focusing on agriculture with funds earmarked for enhancing productivity through improved irrigation practices and more efficient use of fertilisers is important in the efforts to improve both food security and bring prosperity to farmers that depend on their livelihoods from the agricultural sector.

The problem however, is that out of 24 projects scheduled to be launched in the financial year 2019-2020 – with funds disbursals worth Rs10.54 billion – only 12 have been approved as of yet. Projects for the improvement of water resources, enhancing the area reached from small and mini dams and others are still in their formulation stages with economic viability studies yet to be completed, among other issues. With tighter margins on state spending, it is imperative that the limited funds available are put to their best possible use and at the very least, achieve the objectives they have been earmarked for. How is that possible given that the government still has to do its homework on a significant portion of the work it has planned to undertake? A lack of planning will only lead to inefficient spending at best and at worse bleeding our limited coffers dry through corruption and mismanagement.

Among the positives, the government’s decision to focus on existing universities for improving quality and access to a greater student segment instead of building new universities (as is the norm) must be appreciated. Opening new universities that provide degrees which do not help in the employability of former students only bleeds funds and does not lead to increasing the skilled labour force in the country. If existing universities can be improved to allow for better education and can provide access to more students through better transportation, housing sites for out-of-station students and other innovative ideas, the higher education standards in the country will improve drastically.

Previous governments have made the same mistake of earmarking funds under headers that sound impressive while the projects within are anything but. What this does is waste public funds and stagnate human development instead of leading to any tangible improvement. The government must look to have more concrete plans; abstract ideas or those that are unapproved by economic and environmental feasibility reports are of no use to the country.