Seminar on Improving Public Service Delivery in Pakistan


Date: February 12, 2015

Venue: Serena Hotel, Islamabad

Time: 9:00 am to 6:00 pm

The day long seminar was organized by the Consortium for Development Policy Research (CDPR) in collaboration with the International Growth Centre (IGC)’s Pakistan Program to disseminate research conducted by its member organizations. The event was hosted in partnership with CDPR affiliates, the Centre for Economic Research in Pakistan (CERP) and the Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives (IDEAS). The target audience included local and international researchers, academics and members of the civil society and donor community based in Islamabad. Participants also included key government officials at the federal and provincial (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab) levels relevant to the research being presented. The seminar was also well represented by major political parties in Pakistan. This first dissemination event centered on the theme of improving public service delivery in the country, with a focus on health, education and fiscal policy.

Introductory Session

Dr. Ijaz Nabi (Chairman CDPR and Country Director IGC) opened the first session by briefly introducing CDPR and its affiliates to the audience. He discussed the importance of ensuring policy traction as central to frontier economic research. He emphasized that the consortium was thus, keen to promote such research and share, through this seminar, its recently completed work with a wide range of stakeholders. This session was chaired by Mr. Ahsan Iqbal (Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform). He discussed issues related to overall development in Pakistan including the need to improve public service delivery. He highlighted the increase in demand for better public service delivery and ensuing pressure on the state to improve performance. Panelist, Mr. Hassan Nawaz Tarrar (Federal Secretary for Planning, Development and Reform) added further that approach to service delivery should be people centered. He advocated the concept of field-based research to inform policy. Panelist, Dr. Faisal Bari (CEO IDEAS) emphasized on the lack of access to credible data making it difficult to reform public policy. He additionally stressed on the need for researchers and donors to have long-term engagement with policy makers, in order to make policy reform effective. Panelist, Richard Montgomery (head of DFID-Pakistan) shared the practical experience that comes from being a donor and a public sector investor. He acknowledged the effectiveness of the research conducted under CDPR and IGC. He also added that DFID had used the findings from this research to make suggestions for fiscal reform and resource mobilization in the previous budget (FY 2014-15).

Improving Public Service Delivery in Health

The presenters for this session included Dr. Jeffery Hammer (Princeton University) and Yasir Khan (IGC). Dr. Hammer presented his work on improving public health in Punjab. He emphasized the problems relevant to public service delivery in health, particularly the underutilization of public facilities. He further added how lack of credible of data made it difficult to determine factors affecting child health in Punjab. Mr. Khan presented his on-going research on using incentives to improve performance of polio workers. He focused on possible solutions for improving effectiveness of service delivery, through an experiment with polio workers, using cell phone-based monitoring and monetary incentives. Panelist, Mr. Aizaz Akhtar, (Head of Chief Minister’s Special Monitoring Unit, Punjab) highlighted the deficiencies on the supply side that discourages people from using public facilities. Panelist, Dr. Ali Mir (Population Council) added that most people use private facilities due to a positive perception of the quality of service and ease of access. Panelist, Dr. Babar Shaikh (Director Health of Aga Khan Foundation) stressed the need for decision makers to indulge in evidence-based policymaking so that governance becomes more responsive to citizens’ needs. The chair of the session, Saira Afzal Tarrar (Federal Minister of Health) agreed with this assessment and concluded the session by stressing on the need for a thorough evaluation of the existing system.

Improving Public Service Delivery in Education

The presenters of this session included Dr. Masooma Habib (CDPR) and Dr. Farooq Naseer (LUMS). Dr Masooma presented her work in KP on improving teacher incentives for teacher and school administrator for improved education delivery in the province. She highlighted the importance of reducing teacher absenteeism, enhancing monitoring mechanisms, and giving recognition awards for improving teacher performance. She also emphasized the need for aligning current education legislative rules to teachers’ performance. Dr. Naseer presented his on-going work on in-service training to serve classroom teaching “towards an improved model for teacher development in Punjab”. He discussed the low quality of education persistent in the province and the importance of teacher training to improving the quality of education. Panelist, Mr. Mosharraf Zaidi (Alif Ailaan) stated how the studies demonstrated the increased rigor towards the issue of education and was also evidenced by a marked increase in the presence of education issues in the national discourse. Panelist, Mr. Afzal Latif (Education Secretary, KP) stated that Dr. Masooma’s findings validated the direction KP Education Department was taking. He expressed his willingness to establish a continuous working relationship with the IGC and CDPR. Panelist, Mr. Waseem Ajmal Chaudhry (Secretary P&DD Punjab) strongly advocated the idea of using technological innovation for training teachers to improve learning outcomes. Ms. Scherezad Latif (World Bank) further linked Mr. Chaudhry’s idea to current interventions of the Bank that have had initial success in Punjab. To conclude, the Chair, Mr. Atif Khan (Minister Education, KP) said that political will is needed to improve the state of education in Pakistan. He showed his willingness to establish a working relationship with the Punjab Government and to learn from their experiences.

Revenue and Fiscal Reforms to Finance Public Service Delivery

Presenters in this session included Dr. Adnan Qadir Khan (Research Director, IGC), Dr. Michael Best (Stanford University) and Dr. Anjum Nasim (IDEAS). Dr. Adnan presented his on-going research on “Motivating Bureaucrats: Role of Performance Pay, Merit-Based Postings and Delegation in Fiscal Reforms”. He discussed the net effect of direct incentives on revenue collection 
and whether incentivizing accuracy and taxpayer satisfaction could mitigate negative effects of incentives. Dr. Michael presented his research on “Income Tax Evasion in Pakistan: Implications for Tax Policy & Administration”. He presented his argument on how minimum taxation could reduce tax evasion successfully and discussed ways for bringing suspected income tax evaders into the tax net. Dr. Nasim presented his work on “Agricultural income tax as a source of revenue mobilization in Punjab and KP”. His research focused on agriculture income tax that reported estimates of its revenue potential in Punjab and KP. The panelists of the session provided perspective from their own experiences on financing public service delivery. Dr. Asad Zaman (Vice Chancellor PIDE) gave an alternative view and suggested that instead of tinkering with the current system, the focus should be on institutional reform. Dr. Hanid Mukhtar (former World Bank Senior Economist) discussed how the case of Pakistan showed that incentives work when they do not become an entitlement. He postulated that the problem was constitutional. Dr. Vaqar Ahmed (SDPI) discussed the political economy aspect of fiscal reform. He stated that while taxation remains a big part of resource mobilization, idle resources such as land could also be utilized to generate revenue in the case of KP. Mr. Asad Umer (PTI) focused on the political aspect of taxation and suggested that the best way to fix the tax problem was to ensure those who impose taxes are made to pay through a tax audit. He also pointed out the need for accountability to change the culture of tax evasion. The chair of the session, Mr. Tariq Bajwa (Chairman FBR) rounded up the session by pointing out the large amounts of debt which Pakistan has been accumulating to meet its current expenditure, has left little room for financing social sectors. He suggested a critical need for structural changes in the tax system.

Agenda for the Seminar – CDPR IGC Seminar Agenda

Blog post by Hina Shaikh (International Growth Centre)-

Photographs of the Seminar-


Health Session

  1. “Determinants of nutritional and health status of Punjabi children” and findings on preventive health in South Asia – Dr. Jeffrey Hammer, Princeton University and Ms. Uzma Afzal, Lahore School of Economics Health Jeffrey Hammer
  2. “Using incentives to improve performance of polio workers in the Lahore region” – Mr. Yasir Khan, International Growth Centre Health_Yasir Khan

Education Session

  1. “In-service Training to serve Classroom Teaching: Towards an Improved Model for Teacher Development in Punjab”- Dr. Farooq Naseer, Lahore University of Management Sciences. Education_Farooq Naseer
  2. “Study on incentives of teachers and administrative cadre in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa” –Dr. Masooma Habib, Lahore School of Economics.Education_Masooma Habib

Fiscal Reform

  1.  “Research on Income Tax Evasion in Pakistan: Implications for Tax Policy & Administration”– Dr. Michael Best, Stanford University Tax_Michael Best