ISLAMABAD: The cash-starved federal government on Thursday cleared 11 projects costing Rs95.5 billion including an Rs28-billion health sector scheme that fell in the provincial domain and needed an endorsement from the Council of Common Interests (CCI).
The Central Development Working Party (CDWP) recommended the strengthening and upgrading of the nursing and midwifery project costing Rs27.9 billion to the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) for final approval, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Planning.
The project has been given first green light despite not being part of the federal Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2019-20.
In total, the CDWP approved nine projects worth Rs40 billion and recommended two mega schemes costing Rs55.5 billion to Ecnec. The CDWP has the mandate to approve projects of up to only Rs10 billion. Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Jehanzeb Khan chaired the CDWP meeting.
The CDWP is regularly holding meetings and adding new projects to the existing portfolio of around 1,100 schemes. The projects are being approved at a time when there is hardly any fiscal space.
Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh has already linked the release of Rs701 billion worth of federal PSDP for the current fiscal year with the ability of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to collect Rs5.5 trillion in taxes.
However, in utter disregard for the country’s weak fiscal position, the federal government cleared the Rs27.9-billion project in the health sector.
The technical section of the Ministry of Planning pointed out to the CDWP that “after the 18th Amendment to the constitution, the health sector including the nursing sub-sector is a provincial subject and after devolution, the CCI has the mandate to formulate and regulate policies in respect of matters like federal financing of devolved subjects”.
The technical section, therefore, advised that concurrence of the nursing project at the CCI level should be obtained for federal funding of the project. CCI is a constitutional body headed by the prime minister with four provincial chief ministers as its members.
When contacted, the Planning Commission deputy chairman said: “the CCI deals with the subjects enumerated in the Federal Legislative List Part-II”.
The project envisages the upgrading and strengthening of the nursing profession in Pakistan. There were 75,000 registered diploma-holder nurses, nearly 16,000 midwives, and over 13,000 lady health workers, taking the total to 104,000 nursing staff as of 2017.
The project is aimed at meeting infrastructure requirements of nursing colleges, provision of a grant to the public and private-sector nursing staff, hiring international faculty, addressing governance issues and ensuring social mobilisation. The government plans to dole out Rs45 million per nursing institution for upgrading labs, infrastructure development and hiring international faculty.
It also plans to dole out taxpayers’ money among 82 private-sector nursing institutes.
The CDWP also approved projects in the energy sector. It approved the setting up of regional grid phase-I in Gilgit-Baltistan at a cost of Rs5 billion.
A 220-kilovolt Nawabshah sub-station worth Rs6.3 billion was also approved in the meeting. The CDWP approved a new 220kv Larkana sub-station project at a cost of Rs6.5 billion.
The procurement of a 220kv mobile grid station along with the emergency recovery system and 500kv shunt reactors for emergency services worth Rs7 billion was also approved by the CDWP. A 220kv Swabi sub-station worth Rs6.4 billion was also approved.
A project related to science and technology and called “Pakistan Research Reactor-3” worth Rs4.7 billion was approved by the CDWP. Another project of science and technology for the establishment of a campus of the National University of Technology (NUTECH) Islamabad worth Rs2.8 billion was also approved in the meeting.
The CDWP approved the implementation of the safe blood transfusion service project worth Rs863 million. The establishment of the Medical Device Development Centre at the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) Islamabad worth Rs331.12 million was also approved.
A project related to water resources titled “National Programme for Enhancing Command Area in Barani areas of Pakistan” worth Rs27.5 billion was recommended to Ecnec for approval.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2019.