Planning Minister M.A. Mannan called upon the planners to go to people at the grass-root level to know their requirements before inking planning documents. The minister, who has a penchant for straight talk and known for his pro-poor stance on most issues, asked those who prepare development plan-papers to bridge the gap that exists between them and the would-be beneficiaries. His call at the Planning Commission (PC) premises on the occasion of presentation of important segments of the 8th Five-Year Plan organised by the General Economics Division (GED) also includes urging the public servants to give their utmost so that the country achieves its target of becoming a developed nation by 2041. Concerned GED Member Dr Shamsul Alam informed the gathering at the PC of such lofty targets as achieving a gross domestic product growth of 8.51 per cent by the year end of the FYP in 2025 and cutting down poverty rate to 15.6 per cent. Great goals and comforting key words no doubt! Nonetheless, as the Covid-19 pandemic years of 2020 and early 2021 have shown, not all targets are achieved, particularly in time of such a pandemic. Every country in the world suffered from this lockdown-induced sluggishness. With vaccine roll-out, hopefully normalcy would be restored and people's livelihood and work culture get on track.
Bangladesh's growth went down in the pandemic period, although there have been adulatory words from international organisations including the World Bank that this country did appreciably well at a time when others could not. The growth of remittance has also shown an upward propensity, although questions have been raised as to the role played by the 2.0 per cent windfall given to any inward transfer with a hint that one's own money was getting back through some circuitous way somehow, in some cases at least. Setting aside the conspiracy theorists and getting back to the opening words that bridges must be built between planners and people, one would expect the Planning Commission to reform further and be indeed a pro-people entity delivering not just a sense of succour but also services to the common man's doorstep. A recent government order merged the technically trained economic cadre of functionaries with field administration. This might prove to be a double-edged sword, taking off the shine of the economic cadre officers who mostly manned the PC and harnessing with them field administrators without any technical knowledge of preparing and overseeing projects.
However, they may be complementary to each other, working for the common good based on a consciously evolved good work culture. Proper training of both sets of functionaries may stem the anxiety, bringing the planners on the doorstep of the common man as also sending people with vast field-level experience to the thick of things in the PC. Thus the planning minister's 'bridging gap' may become a real possibility. The much-sidelined Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) of the Planning Ministry, the task of which is to see proper supervision and assessment of projects, also needs empowerment. For a real pro-people institution to thrive and bring expected goods to the doorsteps of the common man, planners and administrators need to associate in the best possible way equipped with tools and best intellect of the time. That would make their merger meaningful and yield the expected fruits.