PTI govt rejects plan to shift SDG scheme

Cabinet members oppose programme’s transfer to Parliamentary Affairs Division

Zafar Bhutta May 24, 2020
The argument was that the Planning Commission had been dealing with billions of rupees worth of development projects under the PSDP. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: The cabinet has turned down a plan of transferring Rs30 billion worth of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Achievement Programme (SAP) from the Cabinet Division to the Parliamentary Affairs Division.

Past governments had been using SAP as an effective tool to win votes in constituencies of their parliamentarians.

Earlier, the focus was on electricity supply schemes to be executed in constituencies of the parliamentarians. However, now the major focus is on gas supply projects in a bid to attract voters.

The previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government had even extended the scope of development schemes to union councils in the constituencies of parliamentarians under the Prime Minister’s Global Sustainable Development Goals Achievement Programme before elections.

The extended programme scope covered establishment of union council offices as well as grants and fund allocation for operating and maintaining public infrastructure and facilities by local government institutions and bodies.

In the last days of the PML-N government, billions of rupees were released for undertaking development schemes in the areas covered by party parliamentarians.

When the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) came to power, its parliamentarians as well as those belonging to its allies started complaining about insufficient development activities in their respective constituencies.

They also said the development schemes were important to show government’s performance to their voters.

Keeping that in view, the PTI government also initiated a programme of small development schemes to achieve SDGs. The present government allocated a Rs30-billion fund and placed it with the Cabinet Division under the direct control of prime minister for disbursement for the execution of community-driven schemes, mostly on recommendations of party parliamentarians, in various constituencies across the country.

A steering committee was also constituted to oversee implementation of the project.

However, the parliamentarians wanted effective execution of the development schemes under SAP, arguing that the Cabinet Division was not doing well.

Sources told The Express Tribune that a summary was tabled in a cabinet meeting held in the first week of May that stressed that SAP should be transferred to the Parliamentary Affairs Division along with logistics and stocks from the Cabinet Division for effective inclusion of parliamentarians in the programme.

However, the cabinet did not approve the plan following opposition from cabinet members. They were of the view that the Cabinet Division had been running the programme successfully and it should not be transferred to the Parliamentary Affairs Division.

Sources said the cabinet had prepared a summary earlier with the objective of transferring SAP from the Cabinet Division to the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives for effective implementation of the parliamentarians’ schemes.

The argument was that the Planning Commission had been dealing with billions of rupees worth of development projects under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP). So, it was the right ministry to implement the schemes under SAP.

However, the planning ministry did not agree with the plan. The ministry was of the view that it had been handling bigger schemes, therefore, it should not engage in small projects.

Later, the matter was referred to the Establishment Division, which recommended that SAP should be handed over to the Parliamentary Affairs Division.

It was argued that the Parliamentary Affairs Division was mostly responsible for engagements with the parliamentarians and it was thought better that the division interacted with the elected representatives to execute development schemes in their constituencies, especially under SAP.

This ministry was required to consult the Prime Minister’s Office before processing development schemes under the SDGs. The plan was shelved as cabinet members did not back the proposal.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2020.

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