New PSDP book printed after budget presentation

Latest documents were not examined by NA which included 50 projects of an allied party

Shahbaz Rana July 16, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has printed a new book of Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) after presentation of budget in the National Assembly to include over 50 projects of its allied party - in a blatant use of taxpayers’ money to win political loyalties.

For the first time in its history, the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform discarded the document of PSDP 2019-20, which was part of the budget documents laid before the National Assembly on June 11.

Instead, it has printed another PSDP 2019-20 book, which carries 56 additional projects, of which 50 are located in areas from where Balochistan National Party (Mengal) candidates won 2018 general elections, showed the new book which was never vetted by the National Assembly.

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The new document has been printed to accommodate the demand of the allied party whose votes were critical for the passage of the budget. By using taxpayers’ money for gaining political advantage, Prime Minister Imran Khan has breached his promise with the people that he will protect their money. The decision to include politically motivated projects in the PSDP is also a violation of the newly approved Public Finance Management Act 2019, which has set certain conditions for including a project in the PSDP.

The document that the Senate Standing Committee on Planning and Development vetted during the budget approval process has been quietly discarded by the government.

The Express Tribune visited offices of Minister for Planning and Development Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar and Planning Secretary Zafar Hasan to get their versions. The minister promised to give the version but no response was given till the filing of the story.

Sources said the planning minister, planning secretary and Asif Sheikh were behind printing the new book after presentation of the budget. Sheikh’s contract was terminated by the planning ministry a few weeks ago on Islamabad High Court’s order but he still comes to the office and uses the ministry’s office and vehicle.

The government has already given a tailor-made advertisement to rehire Sheikh who is 73 years old. Before his termination, Sheikh was serving as development budget adviser.

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Following the inclusion of new schemes, the total PSDP size has now swelled to Rs9.8 trillion with 1,063 projects. The original document that the PTI government tabled in the National Assembly had 1,007 projects.

The government has mentioned notional cost of 56 new projects aimed at concealing their impact on the budget. Secondly, no feasibility work had been done on these schemes before their inclusion in the PSDP, the sources said.

The changes have been made against the portfolios of seven ministries and divisions. These are Ministry of Finance, National Highway Authority, Power Division, Water Resources Division, Revenue Division, Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination and Ministry of Kashmir Affairs.

Names and locations of all these projects suggest that these schemes have been included in the PSDP to get BNP-M votes for the passage of the budget.

The government has added 13 new projects under the portfolio of Ministry of Finance, which were earlier not part of the document presented in the National Assembly on June 11. After these inclusions, the Ministry of Finance’s total schemes have increased to 50, up from 37. These projects were located in areas of Khuzdar, Nushki, Chagai and Quetta.

The highest number of projects - 21 - has been added to the portfolio of Ministry of Water Resources. Almost all these newly added projects relate to the areas of Balochistan where BNP-M has won elections. These projects include construction of 10 small dams in Khuzdar, delay action dam in Nushki and Chagai, flood irrigation scheme in Gwadar and small dams in Quetta and Kharan.

The second highest number of projects - 18 - has been added to the portfolio of Power Division, again all related to areas of Chagai, Nushki, Kharan, Kalat and Quetta.

Some newly added projects also mention the names of constituencies. The NA-266 constituency has been won by Agha Hasan Baloch of BNP-M and NA-268 was won by Mohammad Hashim Notezai of BNP-M.

The schemes relate to transmission line projects, grid stations, installation of 4,500 solar units in Chagai and Nushki, provision of 2,000 home solar kits for the constituency of BNP-M MNA Mohammad Hashim Notezai, provision of electricity poles for NA-268, provision of transformers for NA-266 and village electrification in NA-268.

In the NHA portfolio, the Peshawar (Chamkani)-to-Nowshera addition of extra lane on each side of the project has been added to the new document. The NHA’s portfolio has now jumped to 82 schemes. The government included a new project in the portfolio of Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination in the name of “construction of a sports complex at Saryab Road, Quetta”.

The notional price of the project is Rs180 million but its actual cost will run into billions of rupees. The ministry’s portfolio has soared to eight schemes.

Establishment of a hospital at Skardu is also included in the new document, taking total projects of Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan to 24.

In the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) portfolio, a Rs12.5-billion domestic resource mobilisation project has been added, taking its total projects to 19.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th, 2019.

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