Govt extends scope of SDGs programme to union councils

Will set up council offices, provide grants for public infrastructure

Zafar Bhutta December 07, 2017
A family rides a camel past the construction of an office building and mall complex on Clifton beach in Karachi, Pakistan. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: As the election year is approaching fast, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government has extended the scope of development schemes to union councils in the constituencies of parliamentarians under the Prime Minister’s Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Achievement Programme.

Talking to The Express Tribune, a senior official of the Parliamentary Affairs Division revealed that the government was earlier increasingly focusing on initiating electricity and gas supply schemes in untapped areas under the SDGs.

Now, the programme’s scope has been extended which covers establishment of union council offices as well as grant and fund allocation for running and maintaining public infrastructure and facilities by local government institutions and bodies.

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Under the extended scope, manned and un-manned level crossings, underpasses and flyovers will be constructed and maintained.

In this regard, the cabinet took the decision in its meeting held in November 2017.

Parliamentary affairs minister and chairman steering committee of the SDGs programme told the cabinet that although the programme was being successfully implemented, a need had been felt for expansion and enhancement of the scope in more areas.

He pointed out that the existing social sector area of the programme cleared the way for the provision of missing facilities only for schools. However, such facilities like furniture and fixtures as well as their maintenance were also required to be provided for higher secondary schools - both existing and new - in order to strengthen infrastructure of the education sector.

Secondly, at the time of initiating the SDGs programme in 2016, an appropriate role for local governments and bodies could not be defined as local bodies’ elections were going on at that time.

Now that local bodies’ institutions and local governments had started functioning, there were some areas that should be included in the development programme, the committee chairman said.

Initially, he suggested the setting up of union council offices and allocation of grants and funds for the operation and maintenance of public infrastructure and facilities like safe drinking water, tube wells, etc, established under the SDGs programme, by the local government institutions and bodies.

He also called for including in the programme the purchase and maintenance of latest mechanical cleaning machinery for urban and rural areas.

Furthermore, the Parliamentary Affairs Division emphasised that in order to meet peculiar development needs and priorities of each area, a flexible approach should be adopted for executing development schemes of public interest which were not covered in the programme.

This included the establishment and maintenance of manned and un-manned level crossings, underpasses and flyovers.

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To win over voters ahead of elections in mid-2018, the government has already lifted a years-long ban on new gas supply schemes. Apart from this, the criteria for electricity supply to new towns and villages have also been eased.

It has promised honorarium and reward to the officers and staff dealing with new electricity and gas supply projects in the constituencies of parliamentarians of the ruling and allied parties.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has already given a free hand to the departments concerned by delegating approval powers for development schemes worth over Rs30 million each in the constituencies of parliamentarians.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2017.

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