ISLAMABAD  -  Adviser to Prime Minister on Institutional Reforms and Austerity Dr. Ishrat Hussain stressed that the weak governance structure is the main reason behind low economic and urban development in Pakistan.

He said that accountability, right to information, transparency is demanded by urban electorates. The model prevalent between 2002 and 2008 devolved the services being provided to the local bodies.

The decision making at that time was more decentralied and closer to the demands of the people in that area, he made these remarks during ‘cities vision conference’, which was organised with Prime Institute in partnership with UN-Habitat and UNDP. He shed light on the political dynamics of urbanisation.

The metropolitan cities such as Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi can raise their own resources/funds. He was of the view that the affairs of the state cannot be run through centralisation means decentralisation is the key to Pakistan’s prosperity.

Prime Institute, Joint Executive Director Mr. Zia Banday, said that Prime remains of the opinion that a broader city coalition led by the municipality can optimise local economic development. He added that it is well understood that LED is a nascent idea in the local environment of Pakistan, hence awareness creation remains high on the agenda.

Prime has embarked on its journey of engagement with urban economies around 2 years back. It commenced with the ranking of 5 major cities on Metropolitan Competitiveness Index (MCI). In the following year, MCI coverage was expanded to cover 5-more cities. Prime also undertook an exercise of developing City Economic Vision of Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta.

Adviser to Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam, emphasised the need for a clean and green Pakistan. He said that urban forestry model should be a priority in cities’ development agenda.

The focus should not be solely on the local economic development but also on ecological sustainability. He reassured that soon they are going to launch Clean Green Index to improve urban infrastructure, green cover and public service delivery in big urban centers of Pakistan.

University of Johannesburg, South Africa CENLED Director, Dr. Marius Venter, highlighted common problems facing cities of developing countries such as extreme poverty, health issues, food insecurity, migration and climate change. He iterated the role of local authorities in local economic development.

Empowerment of human capital is deemed necessary for strengthening the cities. He talked about business development and one stop centers where the delays in obtaining local authority approvals for land development have become a universal issue in the property development sector. Internationally, governments have set up One Stop Centers in each local authority meant to expedite the planning, building and land development approval process concurrently.

The global economy has witnessed rapid transformation, whereas Pakistan’s economy has remained virtually stagnant and the growth numbers have been unimpressive. It has thus become absolutely necessary for Pakistan to reposition itself in the global markets.

Despite losing out on global shares entrepreneurs and industries in Pakistan have shown resilience, which is critical for sustaining a growth momentum. Pakistan thus holds some essential advantages that can be harnessed to prepare its economy to secure a bigger share in global production and exports.

Three panel discussions were carried out in this conference where mayors, administrators, chamber presidents participated in the session. The session was about physical Development- the Built Approach, Business Development- Augmenting Demand and Human Resource Development- Facilitating Supply.