Overcoming Years of Neglect
“Now, you must have realized that Balochistan has been the most neglected part of this sub-continent all these years. In some respects, it is criminal negligence on the part of those who were responsible for the welfare of Balochistan. You have got a deep-rooted ancient century-old system which is in vogue here and your administration has been stagnant for nearly a century. This is a problem that I am faced with as the Executive Head of Balochistan. Now you cannot change these things overnight but we can make wonderful progress and advancement if we all work together sincerely, honestly and selflessly and as servants of Balochistan.”
- Mr. Jinnah / Quaid-e-Azam
- Speech: Constitutional Position of Baluchistan
- Context: Speech in reply to the address presented by a Deputation of members of the Quetta Parsi community
Balochistan has suffered economic neglect owing to its colonial past where a foreign government had kept Balochistan divided into several parts, each with a different name and status, yet all bound together in shackles of backwardness. Further, Balochistan itself has been practising an ancient century-old system that has not progressed in ages.
After achieving independence, the state of Pakistan has made many mistakes but has also attempted to work towards to Balochistan’s development.
The Infrastructure Trap
Poor infrastructure is one of the most visible signs of poverty and is one of the reasons poor countries cannot escape their cycle of poverty, according to a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
There’s an inclination to believe that if poor countries could just improve their infrastructures, investment will flow in, and prosperity will follow.
However, what sustains successful infrastructure development? It’s not just billions of dollars for construction.
The Balochistan Development
However, Balochistan’s development has largely focused on just that: construction of megaprojects from oil refineries to power stations to cement plants to marble factories to mining projects to ports. Despite these efforts, we have not observed Balochistan to make ‘wonderful’ progress.
Markets and Infrastructure
Good infrastructure will come when there are markets that can absorb the cost of building and maintaining it. “If you ever visit Cape Town, South Africa, you’ll be struck by the sight of an elevated highway running right over the center of the city because it literally drops off, midair, without so much as a guardrail to prevent a car from going off the edge. This road to nowhere has been sitting there, unfinished, for more than forty years.
It was planned originally, in part, as a means of helping some of the Cape Town region’s poorer residents travel more quickly to higher paying jobs out of their local neighborhoods. Except, it turns out, there weren’t really a lot of higher-paying jobs just waiting for people to find a way to get to. So when funding ran out and priorities changed -- and all those higher-paying jobs available to the most impoverished and uneducated residents failed to materialize -- the bridge became a glaring symbol of good intentions gone wrong.” (Source: The Prosperity Paradox by Calyton M. Christensen)
Therefore, pushing infrastructure into a low- and middle-income economy before there are enough markets to use the infrastructure can result in big, beautiful, and ultimately failed, infrastructure projects costing billions and billions of dollars, visible and painful reminders of what once seemed possible.
For instance, the US government has spent more than $1 Bn on education infrastructure in Afghanistan and has very little to show for it. Most of the schools are empty buildings with neither students nor teachers. In Tanzania, a $200MM project to build a paper and pulp factory designed to support the country’s commitment to the universal primary education went bust after the planners realized it was too large and technically complex for Tanzanians to manage. There are numerous examples for this.
Market-creating innovation precedes infrastructure. Infrastructure needs to connect to the needs of businesses, and more specifically, market-creating innovations, not the other way around. CPEC infrastructure development is key, but in parallel, Pakistan needs to invest in creating new markets via innovation in Balochistan for enduring positive impact.
In America, it was individual entrepreneurs and private companies who built most of the early roads, rails and canals because they were trying to solve a problem more efficiently. It was the proliferation of motorcycles and motorized vehicles in Japan that led to the paving of roads, or at least that made it sustainable. Market-creating innovation pulled-in infrastructure.
Today, considering the size, scale, and importance of most infrastructures -- governments are tasked with managing and funding them. However, different countries should have different infrastructure strategies depending on the needs of their citizens, industries and the markets they hope to create.
Balochistan's Economic Transformation
The citizens of Pakistan aim to displace the mega-project approach with a market-creating innovation strategy. The primary focus needs to be on innovation that solves for local problems so that sustainable markets are built that evolve the livelihood of Baloch fellows beyond mining and agriculture.
The path forward is to build business incubators that directly collaborate with local Pakistanis in Balochistan and ideate innovative business solutions for their problems. This will result in the creation of lasting markets that can absorb the cost of building and maintaining future infrastructure development.
All citizens of Pakistan are united to work together sincerely, honestly and selflessly and as servants of Balochistan and therefore, we are bound to succeed.
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