While Pakistan’s recent gains in development and infrastructure have been championed by the government as a major stepping stone to success, it seems that all is not as rosy as painted. Pakistan’s long-time problem of delays, shortage and inefficiency might spread to big time projects such as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) if more attention is not paid to the Planning Commission.

The Planning Commission is facing serious shortage of human resource and expertise. It is performing its key functions on a makeshift basis. 75 percent of posts are lying vacant and 32 out of 33 PSDP funded projects are without fulltime Project Directors (PDs).

These vacancies have been in place for at least a year and still no substantial effort is being made to fulfil them. The lag in job hiring is due to the fact that the recruitment of officer cadre is outside the planning ministry’s domain. The criteria, experience and government salaries for new officers has a mismatch and fresh recruitment have remained blocked for years. It has also been speculated that vacancies have been reserved for special people, which is why fresh recruitment are not taking place.

The consequence of the Planning Commission being so severely undermanned is the existing members being overburdened with work. The workers are ordered to finish large projects in the least amount of time, which leads to inefficiency and overrun of budgets.

The problem is not just with the vacancies but also with the lacklustre performance and credentials of those already involved. The supervision consultants of the projects are not performing their duties properly. It is the responsibility of the consultants to monitor project implementation in line with approvals and standards and that is not being done properly.

It is hard to believe the government’s claims of dedicated development when the Planning Commission is so undermanned and underfunded. The way things are going, our dream of seeing Pakistan make it to the Asia Tigers will stay that – a dream.