MULTAN: Additional Chief Secretary of South Punjab, Captain (Retired) Saqib Zafar, announced that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is collaborating with the Planning and Development Board Punjab to compile data and create a regional plan for sustainable development in South Punjab.
This plan aims to alleviate poverty and promote infrastructure development in the underdeveloped region. Saqib Zafar made these remarks during a workshop organized by the South Punjab secretariat, UNDP Pakistan, and the South Punjab Development Forum.
The workshop aimed to facilitate dialogue among stakeholders, policymakers, industry leaders, civil society, and government officials to accelerate development in South Punjab, which consists of three divisions and eleven districts.
The workshop included various administrative secretaries, economic experts, and regional stakeholders.
Saqib Zafar emphasized that agriculture and livestock are key strengths of South Punjab that can be revitalized through a robust modernization process. He highlighted that the COVID-19 pandemic and floods have severely impacted livelihoods in the region, underscoring the need to uplift people from this crisis.
The ultimate goal is to finalize a regional development plan, which is expected to be ready soon and enter the execution stage within the next two months.
Regarding the allocation of development funds, Saqib Zafar stated that these funds cannot be redirected elsewhere. Therefore, it is essential for the institutions involved in infrastructure development to enhance their capacity to maximize the benefits for the betterment of the people.
He mentioned that a “Deep Dive” conference was held with international financial institutions and ambassadors from different countries to generate recommendations for capacity building in departments and poverty eradication in South Punjab.
These recommendations, targeting five sectors, are currently being implemented to improve the standard of living in the region. Saqib Zafar believes that the pace of development will accelerate as the capacity of relevant departments improves.
Saqib Zafar commended the UNDP and the South Punjab Development Forum for their comprehensive consultancy initiatives. He suggested that the recommendations be listed as a five-year program and assured that the South Punjab secretariat would incorporate them into their development plan.
Ammara Durrani, Assistant Resident Representative of the Development Policy Unit at UNDP Pakistan, emphasized that regional equalization is a policy focus for both federal and provincial governments. She highlighted South Punjab as a focal point due to its underdeveloped and marginalized status.
UNDP has conducted a mapping exercise to identify South Punjab’s problems, issues, and development needs, and has selected four to five key priority areas that require financing. UNDP is providing technical assistance and advisory support to the government in these areas.
Wilbroad Ngambi, CFO of UNICEF, and Dr. Amanullah, Joint Chief Economist of the Planning and Development Board Punjab, were also present during the workshop.