Pakistan, once again, faces high external and fiscal risks. The PTI government has pledged a reform-based policy agenda that also promises greater discipline in government spending and controlling corruption in government deals. In this backdrop, last month the ruling party weeded over 450 projects from the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) with an objective to save money and divert resources towards more productive sectors of the economy.
It seems that the central government’s actions do not match its words. This week, in the chair of Minister for Planning and Development, the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) has given the go ahead to seven schemes costing Rs238 billion. These schemes include Peshawar Metro Bus project that is funded by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government by obtaining foreign loans. Its cost has been revised upward by 38% within one year of the original approval.
While giving its nod, the CDWP has ignored some glaring objections raised by the Planning Ministry on the project’s design and cost estimates. The cost has been increased despite reducing the number of bus stations and buses. In its technical appraisal, the planning ministry wrote that proper working on the project’s design was not carried out. Also, from the preliminary design to the detailed design phase, there are generally no major deviations, as is in the case which could have resulted in 38% increase.
Prime Minister Imran Khan should take notice of this state of affairs, as his crusade against corruption and bad governance should not be limited to only projects backed by the last PML-N government in Punjab and other areas of the country. The premier himself has ordered an inquiry into metro bus projects of Islamabad-Rawalpindi and Multan and Orange Line Project, Lahore.
An immediate inquiry should be ordered into the increase in the cost of the Peshawar Metro Bus project.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 19th, 2018.
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