The country’s highest project sanctioning authority on Wednesday gave its go-ahead to nine projects estimated to cost a total of Rs410 billion, Rs310 billion of which will be covered by foreign loans. The schemes include two re-gasified liquefied natural gas-fired (RLNG) power plants for Punjab – the country’s first ever – and the Lahore Orange Line Metro Train.
The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) set aside Sindh’s objections to approve, in principle, the two RLNG power plants which will have a combined generation capacity of 2,400MW and a total cost of Rs178 billion. However, the approval for the two projects will be subject to further review of their cost to address some committee members’ concern that it was understated.
The plants, which are aimed at mitigating hours-long power outages in Punjab, will be set up in the Balloki are of Kasur district and the Haveli Bahadur Shah area of Jhang district. The government will obtain Rs136 billion in foreign loans to finance the two power plants which will be part of the next fiscal year’s Public Sector Development Programme.
During the ECNEC meeting, the Sindh government argued that ECNEC should not greenlight the RLNG power plants until they had been cleared by the Council of Common Interests (CCI). But the law ministry maintained that this was unnecessary and that the plants could be set up without being placed on the CCI agenda. The planning ministry, meanwhile, assured that the projects would be finished in two years.
Other projects approved by ECNEC on Wednesday include the Rs165.2 billion Lahore Orange Line Metro Train project, which will be funded by a $1.6 billion concessionary loan from China. The project is part of the more than 50 schemes agreements pertaining to which were signed during the visit of China’s President Xi Jingping.
The committee approved a Rs14.2 billion project to transmit electricity from the 1,320MW coal-fired power plants to be setup at Port Qasim Karachi as well.
It also gave its go-ahead to the Rs9.2 billion Rs9.2 billion Prime Minister’s National Health Insurance Programme and decided that it will be funded from the development budget. The planning ministry was reluctant to treat it as development spending and wanted the finance ministry to cover the cost.
ECNEC also approved the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) at a revised cost of Rs26.9 billion, Rs1.9 billion of which will be used to procure vaccines. The committee also approved a Rs11.4 billion scheme to provide necessary water facilities at Gwadar port.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2015.