ISLAMABAD: The government has further extended the scope of development schemes by including the building of jeep tracks in remote and hilly areas, which will enable the prime minister to launch such projects in his Murree constituency.
Earlier, the list of development schemes was expanded with the inclusion of union council offices which would be set up in the constituencies of parliamentarians in an attempt to ensure they reach out to the masses under the Prime Minister’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Achievement Programme before mid-2018 elections.
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Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has already given a free hand to the departments concerned for the approval of development schemes in the constituencies of parliamentarians of the ruling and allied parties.
The government has also promised honorarium and reward to the officers and staff dealing with development schemes including new electricity and gas supply projects.
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 to cover the establishment of union council offices as well as grant and fund allocation for the running and upkeep of public infrastructure and facilities by local government institutions and bodies.
The cabinet, in a meeting held last month, noted that though the SDGs programme was being implemented successfully, there was a need to expand and enhance its scope in the area of infrastructure by including the laying of jeep tracks.
A steering committee had recommended to the cabinet that jeep tracks in remote and hilly terrains, which were effectively inaccessible, may be added in the SDGs programme as they would be cost-effective compared to metallic roads.
Following comprehensive discussions, the cabinet accorded its approval to the recommendation.
Earlier in a cabinet meeting held in November 2017, the parliamentary affairs minister and steering committee chairman underlined the need for expanding the SDGs programme by including more areas.
He pointed out that under the programme’s social sector, efforts were under way to provide missing facilities like furniture and fixtures for primary schools. However, he emphasised, such facilities with their maintenance were also required to be provided for the higher secondary schools - both existing and new - in order to strengthen infrastructure in the education sector.
Initially, he suggested the setting up of union council offices and allocation of grants and funds for the operation and maintenance of facilities like safe drinking water, tube wells and others 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.
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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 for railways, underpasses and flyovers.
To win over voters in the upcoming elections, 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.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2018.
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