Dr Hafeez Shaikh may have resigned, but in one of his final acts as finance minister he paved the way for the federal government to spend billions of rupees on some projects close to the prime minister’s heart.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led government has called a meeting of the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) today to approve Rs70 billion worth of development projects. This includes billions of rupees in schemes in the constituencies of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf (NA-51 Rawalpindi II) and the PPP’s central Punjab president, Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo (NA-146 Okara IV).
This move comes despite a ban by the Election Commission of Pakistan on new projects and the diversion of funds from one project to another. CDWP Chairman Dr Nadeemul Haque has opposed the meeting. The CDWP, loosely put, is an inter-ministerial group.
According to official documents, three schemes amounting to Rs10.4 billion will be approved for Ashraf’s constituency. The CDWP will also approve three schemes worth Rs6.8 billion for Wattoo’s constituency.
Sources revealed that after Haque refused to convene the meeting, the newly appointed secretary of the planning and development division of the Planning Commission, Hasan Nawaz Tarar, sent a request to Shaikh, asking for his opinion in light of the election commission ban and Haque’s disapproval. A planning official confirmed that Shaikh gave the go-ahead to call the meeting and approve the projects.
The top agenda of the meeting is two roads which have been approved by the prime minister. The government has prepared requests for funds or PC-1s for them. The road between Mandra and Chakwal Road (64-kilometre patch) and Sohawa to Chakwal Road (70km) will be converted into a dual carriageway.
The government had awarded both contracts to the National Logistic Cell, by showing less than the actual cost in the original request for funds. Therefore, the projects will now require the Central Development Working Party’s approval again with revised costs. And the government will have to divert funding from existing projects to pay for the additional Rs3.5 billion needed.
Also, at a cost of Rs965 million, the federal government will also approve the Gojar Khan COMSAT Institute.
Development schemes in Wattoo’s constituency in Punjab include a carpeted road from Depalpur to Basirpur worth Rs935 million, a road from Depalpur Road to Head Sulemanki worth Rs1.97 billion and a road from Jamber to Sulemanki worth Rs3.9 billion.
The working papers of these three schemes will be tabled at the meeting, denying the Planning Commission an opportunity to evaluate them.
A bridge over the Ravi River at Mal Fatyana in the constituency of PML-Q MNA Riaz Fatyana (NA-94) will also be discussed. The cost comes to Rs1.6 billion but the working papers have not yet been provided to the Planning Commission.
Punjab govt proposal
The Punjab government has also sent a proposal to offer interest-free loans under a self-employment scheme for the youth of the province. The total cost would be Rs19.7 billion, including Rs14.7 billion in loans to be borrowed from the Islamic Development Bank.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2013.
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