Planning in SAARC countries

Learning Objectives

  • Planning in SAARC: Priorities, Constraints, and Achievements


The main priorities of development planning in South Asia have to be determined by each country in relation to its own specific conditions and resources and constraints and its own experience of development; even though the priorities set for development are growth (increase in national income), reduction of inequality, employment generation, self-reliance or independent, poverty reduction and so on.

The country-wise priorities of development planning in recent development plans of South Asia are as follows:

Table 1



Afghanistan[1]Service delivery; job creation[2]; equitable economic growth; public revenue generation; protection of rights; durable and inclusive peace; poverty reduction[3]; building good democratic governance; rule of law
BangladeshExport-led economic growth through a free market approach; Empowerment of the poor; infrastructural development; agricultural growth; human resource development; poverty reduction; reduction in inequality; food security and ensuring broad-based growth addressing globalization and regional cooperation; providing energy, security for development and welfare; effective governance; mitigating the impact of climate change; creating a caring society and promoting innovation under a digital Bangladesh.
BhutanSelf-dependent; inclusive green socio-economic development; improving rural quality of life; enhancing private sector; spreading growth national happiness (GNH)[4] to the wellbeing of people
IndiaSkilled development; education; employment; agriculture; irrigation and power
MaldivesSocio-economic and infrastructural development; economic progress; social equity; socio-political stability; universalization of primary education[5]; healthcare; strengthening of democratic governance and socioeconomic institutions
NepalDelivery of immediate rescue; create employment opportunity[6]; sustainable peace and harmony for building up prosperous, modern, just, and inclusive Nepal free from all types of discrimination or servitude
Pakistan[7]Climate change; agricultural and rural development; family planning; control over unwanted pregnancy; quality of life[8]
Sri LankaInfrastructure development; human resource development; strengthening the national economy

The priorities mentioned in table 3 are the major priorities of the SAARC countries. Apart from these priorities, other priorities might exist, which have been excluded.


The nations of South Asia have their own constraints. Though they have similar challenges such as high population growth rates, high illiteracy, superstition beliefs, low economic growth rate, poverty, inequality, deficiency of human capital and the like, each nation in South Asia have a varying degree of these constraints. Some countries are victimized of war, while others are suffering from recurring natural disasters and the consequent loss of lives. Hence, there are multitudinous challenges of each SAARC nations which have been discussed below in table 4.

Table 2



AfghanistanCorruption; mass or pervasive poverty; patronage politics; war economy; destruction of state legitimacy and capacity; poor governance; absence of rule of law; violation of human rights; expansion of criminalized economy; destruction of human capital and infrastructure; a steady collapse of the economy.
BangladeshPoverty; corruption; illiteracy and lack of awareness; inequality; human deprivation[9]; resource limitation; environmental degradation or global warming; territory displacement; population growth; lack of good governance; political turmoil; gender disparity[10]
BhutanInadequate jobs for the growing youth population; climate change and natural hazards; geopolitical and demographic constraints[11], lack of access to affordable clean technology; high dependency on the external market; poverty (23.2 percent); skewed population distribution[12]
IndiaConstraints and challenges are not so much in the economic field, but more in the realms of politics and administration as well as in the availability of qualified carders.
MaldivesTsunami recovery and reconstruction; vulnerable low lying islands (danger level) and fragile reef[13]; environmental degradation; small, remote, and widely dispersed island community; narrow economic base; regional income inequalities, and restricted access to social and physical infrastructures and services; youth and female unemployment.
NepalInfrastructure hurdles; supply bottlenecks or shortcomings; low domestic demand; lower investment profile; low economic growth; low Per Capital Income; Mass poverty (25.2 percent); weak social indicators[14]; high-cost economy leading to higher production cost.
PakistanBusiness development; population; fertility and family planning; inflation; infrastructure development; human resource development; quality governance; corruption; black economy; institutional strengthening; low quality of life; delayed long struggle; legacy of economic distortion; declining productivity; a large and loss-making public sector (white elephant); inadequate market[15]
Sri LankaControl of inflation; management of public debt; a need for improving business environment; diversification of export products and market; effective use of bilateral trade agreement; reforms to the institutional framework of key public enterprises to operate more effectively; a post-conflict economic recovery; national integration; economic reforms


Every nation in South Asia has made remarkable progress in their respective fields. Economic development refers to the sustainable growth in Gross Domestic Product through the growth of business confidence, which is reflected through rising investment, dwindling political upheavals, growing public and private enterprises, and the like.

Some of the remarkable achievements of the SAARC member nations are as follows:

Table 3



AfghanistanThere is remarkable progress in Afghanistan over the course of nearly a decade in the areas of health coverage; improved access to education; better infrastructure; institutional governance and human capacity development.
BangladeshOver the past 45 years of independence, Bangladesh has increased its real income by more than 130 percent; cut poverty by more than half; achieved most of the millennium development goals within given time frame (2015); capable of handling natural disasters with minimum loss of lives[16]; women empowerment; income inequality reducing fast; primary schooling; reduction in gender parity in primary and secondary level education; lower the under 5 mortality rate[17], reducing the incidence of communicable diseases; improving environmental changes (global climate changes or global warming); GDP growth rate of over 6 percent despite global meltdown of 2008; population growth rate down to 1.32 percent. 
BhutanOverall growth stimulated by investment in the hydropower sector; construction sector has fast developed into a major economic sector; tourism in terms of foreign exchange and creation of jobs.
IndiaMuch progress achieved in the many sectors of the economy; thanks to the rising and pushing middle class and entrepreneurs[18]; thanks to reforms and a more pragmatic approach in planning including the private-public partnership
MaldivesThe remarkable progress made in the field of environment openness of the economy; lowering regional income inequalities and restricted physical infrastructures; increasing of an economic base
NepalRemarkable achievements made in the field of agriculture, education, per capita income (PCI), transportation and communication, hydropower, and community forestry; achievements in Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
PakistanPromotion of private sectors
Sri LankaPromotion of private sector and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs); rural centric integrated development initiatives along with enterprise led economy; Sustained economic growth of around 6 percent; reduction in unemployment; increase in Per Capita Income (PCI)[19]; reduction in poverty; access to telecommunication and transportation[20]


[1] A war-devastated nation; extreme political turmoil

[2] People are jobless; most of the people have left nation; people destruct because they are deceived, deprived of basic needs, victimized of biases, and so on.

[3] Pitiful death; the death of hunger; malnutrition; womb blast (womb is slower than the bomb; if womb blasts, life will be full of agony)

[4] Gross National Happiness (also known by the acronym: GNH) is a philosophy that guides the government of Bhutan. It includes an index which is used to measure the collective happiness and well-being of a population.

[5] One hundred percent literacy rate in the Maldives

[6] Most of the men of the family go abroad in search of a job; most of the Nepalese families in rural areas are not female-headed.

[7] A country with the absence of peace and full of servitude. Afghan Alkaida and Pakistani Alkaida have ruined their lives.

[8] Health, happiness quality food, quality education, longevity, quality lodging, quality clothing, sanitation, and the like

[9] The value of human life is low; anyone can murder a person for a few Takas.

[10] Women are considered socially second graded citizen

[11] Landlocked nation; mountains; a very small-sized population of 7 lakhs 20 thousand and 6 hundred population as per 2012.

[12] In Bhutan, 40 percent of the total population live in Thimbu, the capital of Bhutan.

[13] Rock and sands near the surface of the sea.

[14] Women in remote areas of Nepal are considered as socially second graded citizens; the existence of Chaupadi Pratha and other forms of superstitions that considers women as inferior to men

[15] Entry barriers; market distortion; market imperfection

[16] Yearly thousands of people die due to flood in rivers such as River Brahmaputra in Bangladesh.

[17] The pitiable fact of Bangladesh speaks that among 10 children born 1 dies before his or her first birthday, another 2 dies before the third birthday, and another 3 dies before his or her tenth birthday.

[18] Proliferation of entrepreneurs in India making it number 1 in the world.

[19] Sri Lanka holds the second position among the SAARC nations in terms of Per Capita Income

[20] Sri Lanka has made remarkable progress in communication and transportation. More than 85 percent of the total population have access to communication and almost 99 percent have access to better transportation

More study materials

Planning in Nepal


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