In order to address the growing energy crisis, the Budget Priorities Committee (BPC) on Saturday earmarked a sizeable chunk of allocations in the next fiscal year for the country’s nuclear energy programme.
The Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) will receive Rs59.4 billion for the fiscal year 2013-2014 – a significant increase of 34% aimed at fast tracking work on two nuclear power plants with a combined output of 680 megawatts. These plants are currently under construction with Chinese assistance.
In comparison, the committee proposed Rs52.6 billion for the Higher Education Commission’s total budget – an increase of Rs4 billion or 8.3%. Out of the total allocation, a sum of Rs34.9 billion has been proposed for current expenses with an increase of 6.3% or Rs2.1 billion. Its development budget has been increased by Rs2 billion to Rs17.8 billion.
Out of the Rs59.4 billion that will go to the PAEC, Rs54 billion are for the development budget, which is Rs14.8 billion or 37.8% higher than the 2012-2013 allocation. The proposed development allocation of the PAEC is 12.7% of the next year’s anticipated total federal development budget of Rs450 billion.
The allocations for fiscal year 2013-2014, commencing from July, were made during the sixth day of the committee’s meeting. The committee is comprised of the secretaries of Finance, Planning and Economic Affairs Division.
The major chunk of PAEC’s development budget will go to the Chashma 3 and Chashma 4 nuclear power plants, both of which have 340MW of power generation capacity. The total cost of these two projects is Rs189.9 billion and Rs97 billion is planned to be spent by June this year.
The timely completion of these projects will partly address the crippling energy crisis that has shaved off 20% of Pakistan’s Gross Domestic Product growth in the last five years besides rendering hundreds of thousands of people unemployed due to the closure of small and medium scale industries in central and northern Punjab.
To meet the current expenses of the PAEC, Rs 5.3 billion has been proposed, up by Rs317 million or 6.4% from last year.
For the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority’s current and development expenses, the BPC has proposed Rs530 million as against Rs719 million of the current fiscal year. Its current budget has been increased by 6.3%, while the development budget faced a 52% cut due to the completion of ongoing schemes.
The BPC also earmarked a combined Rs2.5 billion for three ministries.
The Ministry of Education and Training will get Rs736.6 million, or a 13.2% increase. The Ministry of National Heritage and Integration will get Rs814 million, a 5.1% increase and for the Ministry of Regulation and Services, Rs936.4 million have been earmarked, which is a 113% rise.
Some Rs39.9 billion was proposed for the Planning and Development Division with the maximum allocation for development projects.
The Ministry of Science and Technology will get Rs5.5 billion and the Ministry of Industries will be allocated Rs1.6 billion.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th, 2013.