Islamabad, May 06, 2014 (PPI-OT): The Federal Minister for Planning, Development, Reform, and Deputy Chairman Planning Commission of Pakistan, Mr. Ahsan Iqbal attended the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Asia Pacific Regional Conference held from 6 – 7 May in Bali, Indonesia. Pakistan, which is not a member of the OGP was invited to participate as it fulfils the four criteria of eligibility for countries to join the group.
The conference was inaugurated by the Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who delivered the key note address. With the overarching theme “Unlocking Innovative Openness: Impetus to Greater Citizen Engagement”, the Conference aimed to tap new potentials and reinvigorate efforts to support a wider application of openness, good governance, and civic participation.
OGP was launched in 2011 to provide an international platform for domestic reformers committed to making their governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens. Since then, OGP has grown from 8 founding countries to 64 participating countries.
In all of these countries, government and civil society are working together to develop and implement open government reforms. In his speech, Minister Ahsan Iqbal said that the Government’s vision of growth hinges on building governance capital, which can’t be tendered without openness and transparency.
He identified the key challenges faced by Pakistan as: presence of perception-gaps, which hinders uniform definition of the core values and critical issues of national importance: scale of non-formalized and grey economy which causes severe haemorrhaging to the national economy. He also expressed the government’s commitment to a more transparent open and accountable system and the initiatives taken in this regard.
In particular, he mentioned the ‘Open Data Initiative’, ensuring more public sector data available to the general public: ‘vision 2025’- based on, inclusiveness and harmony at national level and cohesion and integration for common gains at bilateral and regional level: ‘Young Development Fellows Program’ which involves hiring of a sizeable number of highly qualified and motivated young professionals every year for placement in various public sector organizations, where they will have the opportunity to contribute to the best of their capabilities towards national development.
Other initiatives which the Minister highlighted were: the formation of Advisory Committees in government with representation from private sector, academia, and civil society to create collaborative partnership in policy making, introduction of Right to Information Law, extending invitation to Transparency International to scrutinize major contracts, which are also placed on web for public scrutiny as well.
Past practices of appointing cronies has been disbanded, open merit based appointments as heads of institutions has been introduced, through mobile phones, citizen feedback systems have been introduced as mobile phones have crossed 72 percent penetration rate in the country and provide access to majority of population, the tax directory of Parliamentarians and tax payers also has been published and all discretionary quotas has been abolished, he added.
“These are our some of our first steps, but our destination is complete openness, transparency, engagement, and inclusiveness in governance to earn maximum trust of our people. Step by step, birch by brick we will achieve our vision”, he stated.
Pakistan, he added is willing to adopt best practices and learn from the pitfalls and shortcomings faced by many countries during the process of becoming more open and transparent. (Full text of his speech is attached).
The Minister, accompanied by the Ambassador to Indonesia Ms. Attiya Mahmood, also met his counterpart Mr. Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, the head of President’s delivery Unit for Development Monitoring and Oversight (UKP4) and discussed issues of mutual interest and cooperation. They also discussed the common challenges faced by countries in pursuing open governess initiatives and the possible solutions for these challenges.
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