PTI govt set to approve Rs100b project in provincial domain

Aims to execute social sector schemes in provinces on cost-sharing basis

Shahbaz Rana June 04, 2020
View of city skyline at dusk in Karachi. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: The cash-starved federal government is set to approve an umbrella project of Rs100 billion in a bid to execute small social sector schemes in provinces on a cost-sharing basis, though such subjects fall within the provincial domain after the 18th Constitutional Amendment.

The project was part of the agenda taken up by the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) that met on Wednesday but could not discuss the scheme due to paucity of time.

The CDWP will meet again on Friday to take up about two-dozen projects including the Mainline-I railway project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

In Wednesday’s huddle, the CDWP, chaired by Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Mohammad Jehanzeb Khan, approved seven projects worth Rs24 billion and recommended one scheme worth Rs11.35 billion to the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) for consideration.

The CDWP has mandate to approve up to Rs10 billion worth of projects while schemes having higher costs are approved by Ecnec on recommendation of the CDWP.

One of the projects that was not considered was the Rs100-billion umbrella scheme for the provision of water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure across Pakistan.

However, after the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, these subjects fall within the provincial domain and the federal government’s authority is limited only to the Islamabad Capital Territory.

The planning ministry had put the Rs100-billion scheme on the CDWP agenda, though the federal government was facing serious fiscal problems and could no more afford to fund projects of provincial nature.

Yet, it prepared the mega scheme with joint financing from the federal and provincial governments.

An amount of Rs30 billion was proposed for the missing water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in educational institutions, Rs25 billion for clean drinking water, Rs25 billion for sewerage schemes, Rs15 billion for solid waste management and Rs5 billion for capacity building, according to official documents.

The Rs100-billion package was proposed in the name of Covid-19 response aimed at “provision of Covid-19 responsive water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure”.

The project is planned to be executed on a 50-50% cost-sharing basis between the federal and provincial governments over a period of three years. However, the provincial governments have asked the federal government to bear 80% of the cost.

The Finance Division has opposed the scheme, saying similar activities are already being undertaken in the provinces, so there are chances of duplication of work.

Also, no feasibility study has been done and the provincial governments lack interest in it. “The project seems not to be feasible at this stage,” said the finance ministry.

The project was designed under the government’s overall framework to respond to Covid-19 and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlined in the 12th Five-Year Plan and Annual Plan 2020-21.

Based on federal government’s PC-1, the provincial governments will prepare sub-projects’ PC-1s as per local requirements for intervention in targeted areas.

The schemes will be identified by the stakeholders and approved by the development working party of the respective province. The schemes will be reflected in the provincial Annual Development Plans.

The estimated cost of a sub-project will be less than Rs2 million and the implementation period will be maximum one year. No throw forward of any scheme will be entertained to avoid wastage of resources. The cost of land will be borne by the provincial government.

Approved schemes

Three projects related to the energy sector were presented in the meeting. First project titled “Additional sources of supply to Jaranwala Road grid station” worth Rs5.8 billion, second project namely “30.4MW Jagran-1 hydropower project, Neelum district, AJK” worth Rs4.3 billion and third project titled “Strengthening, up-gradation and ISO certification of Karachi Laboratories Complex at HDIP operations office, Karachi” worth Rs440.8 million were approved in the CDWP meeting, according to a statement of the planning ministry.

A project related to the environment titled “Installation of weather surveillance radar at Sukkur” worth Rs2.5 billion was approved in the meeting. A project related to governance namely “Pakistan Single Window” worth Rs11.1 billion was referred to Ecnec.

The main objective of the project is to facilitate trade, simplification and integration of regulatory authority’s process/system for reducing barriers to cross-border trade-related activities without compromising required control.

A project related to ICT titled “Blended virtual education project for knowledge economy” worth Rs6 billion was approved by the CDWP.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 4th, 2020.

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