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Recycling Failed Rehabilitation ‘Models’
Naeem Sadiq

One ought to be suspicious when building a ‘model’ is proposed as a solution to every complex institutional problem. By its very nature a ‘model’ means ‘one off’. By default it also means that there is no intention to fix up the rest of the system. We have built endless models of everything, from model schools to model women police stations. They never had an impact on improving the primary system and themselves became dysfunctional as soon as everyone was done with the opening ceremonies, photo sessions and newspaper supplements.

The recent floods have created yet another opportunity for all and sundry to recycle this much failed approach – under a new label of ‘model villages’. On 8th November 2010, the Prime Minister approved a grand national strategy for rehabilitation of flood-affected people. The corner stone of this strategy revolves around going to donor agencies and asking for donations. As always 20% of what is promised will be delivered and the 20% of what is delivered will actually reach the end users. Sixty three years of begging as our only strategy for reform have piled up an external debt of $55 billion and an yearly debt servicing of $4-5 billion. Defence expenditure consumes the next big chunk, and the left over is simply squandered by mad priorities such as uplifting the PM House for Rs.74 million. Sadly the writing on the wall makes it amply clear that we have learnt no lesson and the post flood generations are going to suffer the same poverty and inequality as their forefathers. Robert Rotberg Professor of Political Science and History at MIT concludes that “the massive monies spent by the World Bank and European and American donors have brought about almost zero net growth in the developing world since 1960” .
In the last 100 years, the successful nations gradually came to realize the need for governments to provide uniform public education, health and basic infrastructural facilities to all citizens. Not doing so splits the society into a small fraction of rich haves and a large population of disempowered have-nots. By not recognizing the need for raising the literacy, health, living standards, infrastructure and vocational skills of its citizens, Pakistan has essentially divorced 90% of its population. Article 25 of the constitution declares all citizens equal before the law. This applies to provision of equal opportunities for development and wellbeing for all citizens. The state however continues to do just the opposite. A small ruling minority of bureaucrats, generals, judges and politicians is constantly pampered by doling out subsidized plots and other lucrative benefits at the taxpayers’ expense. We need to remind ourselves that no real progress is even accidently possible in Pakistan unless improving the lives of ordinary people is placed as the first item on our list of ‘things to do’.

For any sustainable impact, it is necessary to rethink and change our approach to development in general and post flood rehabilitation in particular. While the government must take responsibility for providing public schooling, health care and infrastructural facilities (instead of announcing closure of 1158 already established schools), the real focus must go towards enhancing the socio-economic and empowerment status of the ordinary people. This ought to be our single-point long-term objective. In order to succeed, such a programme must be based on a few fundamental principles such as not seeking foreign funding, charity, grants or loans, nor working in a manner that will make beggars out of those who are the intended beneficiaries. People should be viewed as partners and not helpless recipients, while keeping the focus on creating both employment as well as entrepreneur opportunities.

A programme for change can be initiated by establishing community campuses in all provinces. Each campus could cater to a cluster of 50-100 villages. Spread over 30-50 acres, each campus could have a number of facilities such as a 20-30 bed secondary care hospital, a mobile primary health care unit, a high school for boys and girls, a teacher training centre, a mobile family planning unit, a community centre for arts, crafts and entertainment, a volunteer development unit for engaging local youth, a mobile library that lends books and spreads awareness in villages, play grounds for hosting inter-village sports, a micro-finance facility and a skill development centre (for men and women) that prototypes and teaches new technologies and skills for local applications. The Campuses could also teach and promote water filtration and sanitation techniques, low cost construction, recycling technologies, alternate energy uses, agro based technologies and a host of other processes that could act as a catalyst for the much needed socio-economic change. FM radio stations (so successfully used to spread terror in Swat) could be used at each campus to spread awareness, tolerance and education amongst the local villages. Mobile adult literacy programmes such as “Jugnoo” could rapidly convert an illiterate population to be able to read and write in a few months.

Implementing the above suggestions is a task far more complex than making brick and mortar structures. It requires serious understanding and expertise of the development process. The government should invite the best individuals and organizations and support them in establishing and operating such community campuses. Key performance indicators of development ( basic health parameters, education, employability, crime rate, income, etc.) should be evaluated on yearly basis to monitor progress and to further improve the delivery of programmes. A large number of organizations who did an excellent job during the relief phase and wish to do more are willing to participate in such endeavours that change the lives of people and not make them look forward to the next monthly dole from an income support programme.
Naeem Sadiq
Dawn Nov 2010