Contrary to the resolve of reducing backlog by allocating more funds to ongoing projects, the government on Monday cleared 61 new projects costing Rs515 billion, a move which will put further strain on the scarce resources.
The decision to this effect was taken here in a meeting of the Central Development Working Party, a body that has the authority to approve up to Rs1 billion projects and recommend the schemes having higher costs to the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) for approval.
Headed by Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Dr Nadeemul Haque, the CDWP approved 40 projects worth Rs22.6 billion. It also recommended 21 schemes having a total cost of Rs493 billion for consideration of Ecnec, headed by Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh.
The CDWP’s decisions were contrary to the resolve made in the last National Economic Council (NEC) meeting, where the Planning Commission vowed that it would reduce the backlog of projects to 1,044 from existing 1,180. It had also assured premier Gilani of reduction in the throw forward – the difference between spending and remaining requirements – to Rs1.8 trillion from the existing Rs2.6 trillion.
However, as a result of the clearance of new schemes, the throw forward will increase to Rs3.2 trillion, which is even higher than next year’s budget of the federal government. The number of schemes will also increase to 1,241.
For the next financial year beginning from July 1, the government has allocated Rs360 billion for the federal public sector development programme. It will take roughly nine years to complete the ongoing schemes with this much allocation without approving any new project.
In the outgoing fiscal year, the federal government has cut Balochistan’s project budget by Rs24 billion and allocated to schemes initiated under directives of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in a bid to keep overall development budget at Rs300 billion.
“Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Dr Nadeemul Haque emphasised that we should be cognisant of the heavy throw forward while considering any new project for approval,” according to a handout of the Planning Commission. However, his decision to clear Rs515 billion worth of projects was contrary to what he said.
A total of 72 projects worth Rs562.8 billion were placed before the CDWP, which deferred six projects valuing Rs16.5 billion for further scrutiny and cost rationalisation and turned down three projects costing Rs29.2 billion. The body rejected two projects of Rs28.5 billion in the energy sector and one scheme of Rs656 million in the transport and communication sector.
Of the cleared schemes, nine worth Rs324 billion were in the energy sector, according to the Planning Commission. Major projects included Neelum Jhelum hydroelectric, Khan Khwar hydropower, distribution of power and Pesco’s 40-megawatt and 35-megawatt projects at Dawarian and Nagdar.
Water was the second biggest sector where 10 projects costing Rs112 billion were cleared. Kachhi Canal, Gandao Small Dam in Mohmand Agency, flood rehabilitation and reconstruction in Sindh, remedial measures to control water logging in Muzaffargarh and TP Link Canal were major projects considered by the CDWP.
In the physical planning and housing sector, six projects valuing Rs33.5 billion were approved, in the education sector one project worth Rs14.4 billion and in the health sector eight projects worth Rs10.2 billion were cleared.
In the transport and communication sector, construction of a bridge at Ravi River at Syedwala, Benazir Bhutto Bridge across Sutlej River linking Chistian with Burewala and construction of Mehran Highway were approved.
Greater Karachi Water Supply Scheme K-IV of 260 million gallons per day (MGD) costing Rs29.7 billion was recommended to Ecnec for approval. For promotion of safe motherhood and child nutrition, improvement of a children hospital in Karachi, upgrading critical care facilities at PIMS and replacement of equipment at Polyclinic, Islamabad were also approved.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2012.