The federal government approved on Friday ten mega development projects worth Rs51.8 billion, including a Rs25.7 billion package for Pakistan Railways (PR) for the repair and procurement of locomotives.
The decision was taken by the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec), headed by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. The projects approved by Ecnec were earlier cleared by the Central Development Working Party (CDWP), which is chaired by the Deputy Chairman Planning Commission and Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal.
Despite well established mechanisms, the body had to reject some proposals brought forward that were deemed ill-prepared, highlighting the decay in bureaucracy over the years.
Most of these projects were not even in line with national priorities. For instance, the Ministry of Communication had to withdraw a project for the construction of the 110 kilometer long Hassanabadal-Havelian-Mansehra Expressway, E35, co-funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The proposed cost of the project was Rs46.8 billion including Rs13 billion in loans from the ADB.
However, Ecnec was told that this cost would only cover half of the 110km road, inviting criticism from Ecnec members who questioned the rationale of bringing half-baked project in front of the highest economic forum in the country. The project was also deemed to be not in line with the government’s Gawadar-Kashgar initiative.
The expressway project had been cleared last week by the CDWP, after being vetted by various wings of the Ministry of Planning. Like other ministries the planning ministry was also facing problems of capacity constraints coupled with an influx of retired bureaucrats who focused more on internal politics than professionalism, according to sources.
Ecnec approved two projects for PR, one for the procurement of 50 Diesel Electric Locomotives worth Rs19.4 billion and the other pertaining to the rehabilitation of 30 Diesel Electric Locomotives with an estimated cost of Rs6.3 billion. PR plans to utilise these locomotives for freight purposes.
Ecnec directed that PR should follow Public Procurement Regulatory Authority rules aimed at ensuring transparency and observe all codal formalities in these projects, according to an official handout by the Ministry of Finance.
Ecnec also sought an update from Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal regarding the Rs59.3 billion Kachhi Canal Project. Ecnec had established a committee to unearth possible wrongdoings in the project. Ecnec was told that “variations” were observed in the project and any further update would be shared after a scheduled visit to the site to ascertain the progress on the project. The Kachhi Canal project cost has already escalated from less than Rs20 billion to Rs59.3 billion with no signs of early completion.
Ecnec also approved three projects situated in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa worth Rs7.2 billion, one project of Rs2.1 billion in Sindh, one project worth Rs4.8 billion in Balochistan, two projects valuing Rs10.2 billion in Punjab and three federal projects amounting to Rs27.8 billion.
The project titled “Reconstruction of Nawabshah-Sanghar Road (61) KM” was approved by Ecnec with the condition that if the project could not attract funds from donors/agencies, the entire cost would be borne by the Government of Sindh. The project envisages reconstruction of an existing 61km road along with reconstruction improvement of existing culverts and bridges to improve existing road width ranging from 6m-7.3m, with 2.5m wide treaded shoulders on both sides.
The project “Construction of Dirgi Shabozai to Taunsa Sharif” was approved on the condition that the Balochistan government would allocate Rs250 million in its current budget for 2013-2014, while the federal government would include its share in the budget 2014-15. The project had been lingering for the past four years and will reduce the distance between Punjab and Balochistan by 90 km.
The project titled ‘Remedial Measures to Control Waterlogging due to Muzaffargarh and TP Link Canals’ was approved in principle and the Punjab government was asked to arrange funding from donors. This project will help reclaim 33,800 areas of land out of the command area of 967,000 acres.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 14th, 2013.