ISLAMABAD: The government sanctioned on Monday two-dozen development schemes costing Rs185 billion including over half a dozen projects, which were not part of the original development programme that the National Economic Council (NEC) had endorsed in May.
Headed by Deputy Chairperson of Planning Commission Sartaj Aziz, the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) also cleared some projects which last month faced a 60% cut in their allocations due to slow progress in approvals.
The CDWP processed 24 projects worth Rs184.8 billion out of which 10 projects worth Rs169.6 billion were referred to the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) for final approval.
The CDWP has the power to approve projects costing up to Rs3 billion, with costlier projects being recommended to Ecnec for final approval.
The government’s decision to include new projects in the Public Sector Development Programme 2017-18 (PSDP) and to clear those that are facing funding constraints highlights flaws in its planning, which is becoming the core reason for cost escalations.
On January 24, the Prime Minister’s Office cut the development budget of new but unapproved schemes by 60% and of the ongoing schemes that did not get releases during the first seven months by 50%. The PM took the decision to divert the funds to those schemes that are either at advanced stages of completion or may give a boost to the ruling party in the upcoming general elections.
The CDWP recommended the Evacuation of Power from Suki Kinari, Kohala and Mahl hydropower projects at a total cost of Rs73.6 billion to Ecnec. The main objective of the project is construction of a 500kV transmission network to provide interconnection facilities for evacuation of power.
The government has kept only Rs100 million for this project in the PSDP 2017-18 and 60% of it has already been slashed.
The CDWP recommended a project for replacement of old and obsolete signal gear from Lodhran to Khanewal at a cost of Rs18.6 billion to the Ecnec. The PSDP allocation for this project was Rs3.3 billion, which has already been slashed to half.
The Darawat Dam Project was also recommended to Ecnec for approval with an estimated cost of Rs11.8 billion.
The CDWP also approved renovation of railway stations at a cost of Rs1.5 billion. Bahawalpur, Raiwaind, Gujranwala, Karachi, Peshawar, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Lahore and Rawalpindi railway stations will be renovated.
The CDWP also sanctioned Rs19.2 billion for construction of Chitral-Booni-Mastuj-Shandur road. The original cost of this scheme was only Rs2.4 billion. In governance projects, the Federal Programme under Access to Justice Programme worth Rs6.4 billion was recommended to Ecnec for approval.
The CDWP also approved about eight projects, which were not part of the PSDP 2017-18 that the NEC -the country’s constitutional body – had endorsed in May 2017 as part of its budget approval exercise. The majority of these projects are in the road sector and some are linked to constituency politics, said sources in the planning ministry.
The CDWP approved Rs544.6 million for construction of four bridges, although it was not part of the PSDP.
It also recommended construction of Ziarat road and Harnai road at a cost of Rs10.8 billion. This project was also not part of the PSDP.
Similarly, the CDWP approved construction of a six-lane overhead bridge at Shahdara, Lahore at a cost of Rs2.1 billion. This scheme is also not part of the PSDP and the government will fund the project out of the Special Federal Development Programme.
A Rs500 million project for purchase of road clearance machinery was also approved despite it not being part of the PSDP 2017-18. For extension of Bannu airport, the CDWP approved Rs715 million, again not part of the PSDP. The body also approved Rs2.3 billion for strengthening security at the airport. This scheme is also not part of the PSDP.
The CDWP also approved Rs751.5 million for a health sector scheme, which was not part of the PSDP.
The CDWP approved two schemes of Ministry of Information Broadcasting totaling Rs203 million. It also cleared a project for establishment of Centre for Neuro Sciences at PIMS at a cost of Rs7.5 billion.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 13th, 2018.