ISLAMABAD: The current Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government has decided to relaunch the gas schemes initiated during the tenure of previous Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) administration and aims to complete them before 2018 elections under a Rs100-billion development package.
It has also decided to revise and ease the criterion for electricity supply to remote villages of the country.
According to officials aware of the development, the cabinet in its meeting held on November 23 was informed that under the prime minister’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) achievement programme called the “Wazeer-e-Azam Qaumi Taraqiati Programme 2016-18”, the minimum criterion for picking a locality for electricity connection was the presence of 10 houses there.
However, certain far-off rural regions did not meet the condition and they would not be able to benefit from the programme.
Some meeting participants sought the cabinet’s nod for revising the criterion from 10 to four houses. After considering the proposal, the cabinet accorded its approval.
It was further informed that billions of rupees had been spent on Sui gas schemes, but scores of such schemes kicked off during PPP’s rule could not be completed. Now, funds were available with gas utilities and they just needed permission to complete work on them.
The cabinet sought a comprehensive proposal outlining the scope of work along with a list of leftover schemes and details of funds available with the Sui gas companies. Approval of the schemes would also be taken from the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources.
The cabinet has already given discretionary powers to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and he can approve gas, power and infrastructure projects worth over Rs30 million before elections under the 2016-18 development programme.
The cabinet, in its earlier meeting held on September 30, had approved a package for the development schemes.
Although the cabinet was told that the development programme was not of a political nature, still the prime minister was given discretionary powers for project approval.
At least 15 residents of an area or members of civil society organisations would be required to make a request for intervention. The request would then be sent to the divisional commissioner concerned or relevant executing agencies for processing. Development schemes costing Rs0.5 million to Rs30 million would be entertained, while projects of over Rs30 million would need green light of the prime minister.
Under the programme, electrification schemes would be launched to provide power connections for more villages. Apart from this, projects for rehabilitating the electricity distribution infrastructure would also be initiated.
During the three-and-a-half-year tenure of the current government, 500 million cubic feet of gas per day has been added to the system from new fields, but the depletion of existing reserves is faster than that.
Despite that, the cabinet gave the go-ahead for laying additional pipelines to provide connections for new consumers.
It also decided to build the missing gas infrastructure in order to provide more gas connections under the schemes of parliamentarians, subject to availability of gas and certification from the Ministry of Petroleum.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 8th, 2016.