The federal government has diverted funds from several key schemes, including the Diamer-Bhasha Dam project, to provide Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf additional space for discretionary spending in a bid to lure voters, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Funds have also been diverted from projects initiated by former premier Yousaf Raza Gilani, especially those in Multan – Gilani’s constituency – highlighting how once influential people lose their sway.
Official documents have revealed that the federal government slashed the funding of 12 projects to provide PM Ashraf Rs5 billion in additional funds under the Peoples Works Programme-II (PWP-II) – the incumbent premier’s discretionary development budget pool. According to government officials, the PM is recklessly allocating funds for projects in PPP’s constituencies ahead of the general elections.
Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh approved an increase in PWP-II’s size to Rs37 billion from Rs32 billion. This is the second revision in the size of PWP-II in less than three months – the fund was earlier increased from Rs22 billion.
“The Federal Finance Minister has been pleased to to accord approval for provision of additional funds of Rs5 billion through adjustment in PSDP 2012-13,” read the documents obtained by The Express Tribune.
According to them, the Planning Commission slashed Diamer-Bhasha dam’s funds by almost 16%. The National Economic Council, which is headed by the PM, had earlier approved Rs6.3 billion for the dam. Now, the amount allocated has been cut down to Rs5.3 billion. The project’s total cost is Rs834 billion, which is likely to balloon further due to the inevitable delay in the project’s completion.
Similarly, the government also slashed funds allocated to the Multan-Khanewal motorway flyover project by 50% (Rs500 million) along with reducing funds for the project’s link interchange by 11.6% (Rs100 million). Both projects were part of the Multan package, introduced by former PM Gilani.
When Gilani developed differences with President Asif Ali Zardari earlier, one of his main demands for reconciliation was the protection of funds allocated to the Multan package. The cuts in these projects are likely to annoy the former premier again, officials feared.
The documents revealed the government did not even spare projects in crisis-hit Balochistan province. The development budget of the Gwadar-Turbat-Hoshab-Ratodero project has been slashed by 15% (Rs500 million), while the funds allocated to the Quetta Water Supply Scheme have been cut by 13.3% (Rs200million).
Most alarmingly, funds allocated to emergency flood protection schemes were also slashed by 33% (Rs300 million), the documents further revealed. Other projects whose funding has been slashed include the Darwat dam project in Sindh, the Lowari Tunnel and Northern Bypass projects in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and several production projects of the Ministry of Defence.
When contacted, the Planning Commission spokesperson insisted that funds were slashed from only those projects whose progress was slow. He added that no work apart from land acquisition was currently being done in the Diamer-Bhasha dam project.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 4th, 2013.