ISLAMABAD: While the current year’s development programme has been slashed to about Rs140 billion, the government approved on Thursday Rs600 billion for 33 new projects, including import of 150 locomotives from the US at an estimated cost of Rs25 billion.
At the same time, the government decided in principle to drop around 500 ongoing projects estimated to cost Rs550 billion as part of “rationalisation plan to create a balance between the new and old projects”.
The decisions were taken at a meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) presided over by Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh.
The committee decided to meet again to consider the ‘rationalisation plan’ and decide to drop some ongoing projects which might have lost their utility because of delays.
Many of these projects have faced massive cost overruns because of implementation delays, resulting also in the lapse of foreign assistance and incurring penalties for non-utilisation of foreign grants.
The committee approved 33 projects estimated to cost Rs600 billion, including a foreign exchange component of Rs130 billion. The projects pertain mostly to transport and communication, irrigation, food and agriculture, education and health, energy, information technology and city development.
In the transport and communications sector, the committee approved four projects of Rs96.2 billion — procurement of 150 diesel electric locomotives from United States, improvement, widening and construction of Kohlu-Sibi Road Project (length 162.5 km), improvement and widening of Jaglot-Skardu Road (167 km) and extension of Motorway (M-4) from Khanewal to Multan (57 km).
In the energy sector, five projects estimated to cost Rs81.5 billion were approved. These are power distribution enhancement investment programme, procurement of compact florescent lamps, addition of 500 and 220KV substations into national grid and setting up a 320MW combined cycle power plant to be gifted by UAE.
Three projects of agriculture sector were approved to ensure food security — Punjab Economic Opportunities Programme (PEOP), Pak-China National Project for Controlled Atmosphere (CA) and advanced Ventilated Cold Storage and National Project for Enhancing Existing Capacity of Grain Storage.
The projects are aimed at reducing poverty in rural areas and to enhance existing food grain storage capacity.
To provide primary health care and to achieve the millennium development goals, Ecnec also approved the Prime Minister’s Programme for Prevention and Control of Hepatitis, Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) and National Programme for Family Planning and Primary Health Care and Lady Health Workers’ Programme (LHWP).