. .



Pakistan must meet conditions for $140 million funding

From YOUSAF RAFIQ
Special Correspondent, Islamabad
Mar 13 - 26, 2000

The World Bank has told the Government of Pakistan it will not release $140 million in funding for the five-year 'On Farm Water Management Project Phase-IV' if Pakistan fails to meet the Bank's five conditionalities before March 31. The conditions include project approval by the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC) and four other conditions that are in the form of guarantees of the project's continuity and adherence to international standards of implementation, monitoring and evaluation will be adhered to by the Government of Pakistan.

More specifically, other conditions include: approval by borrowers of the negotiated document, and other agreements; nomination of the government counterpart accounting staff for implementation of approved financial management system; complete selection of project consultant for implementation, supervision, monitoring and evaluation of the project, and financial accounting and auditing and submission of draft final contract for World Bank release; and declarations of provincial governments to the effect that present shape and objectives of the project will not be changed and they will follow only Bank's line of action as far as execution of the project is concerned.

Sources claimed that the World Bank has warned the Government that its request for the loan will be dropped in favour of other member countries sponsoring similar projects if the conditionalities are not satisfied by March end. Sources said the World Bank message was relayed to Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz in a meeting to review progress on the foreign funded projects the other day. Sources said the concerned department told the meeting that the Government had already allocated Rs 12.45 billion for the launch of this programme. Official sources said the World Bank loan for the project accounted for 55 per cent of its $240 million total cost.

The main objective of the project was to increase agricultural productivity through better irrigation and drainage system. The project also envisages efficient sustenance of the irrigation system through enhanced farmer participation in irrigation water distribution system. Sources added the meeting was informed that project include five major components. First component of the project includes spending of $27.1 million on community development and support. In the second component of the project, $36.8 million will be spent for improvement at distributory level. Third component of the project would cost $15.9 million and would aim at improvement of branch canals, supplying water distributries, cross regulators, falls, rehabilitation of embankments, protection of structure, provision of gates at the cross regulators etc. An amount of $18.3 million will be spent on the execution of local, minor irrigation schemes in its fourth component. The last component of the project would cover project supervision, monitoring , evaluation and technical assistance for a total cost of $7 million, sources concluded.

Agriculture price commission

The Federal government is undertaking a comprehensive restructuring of the Agricultural Price Commission (APCOM) to address crop pricing issues. The management services wing of the Cabinet Division had already completed its report on the proposed restructuring. The report lies with the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture And Livestock (MINFAL), which would send it to the Federal Cabinet for its final approval after getting comments from the Establishment and Finance Divisions.

Sources said the restructuring proposal called for retention of the Commission on permanent basis, and an official notification declaring it as an attached department of the MINFAL. Under the proposed restructuring plan, posts of two members will be abolished and the Commission would be reconstituted as a single member Commission. The sole member of the Commission will be designated as its chief executive. Sources said abolishing of posts of two members and support staff will result in annual saving of Rs. 1.9 million in the APCOM budget.

The proposal suggests that in future the post of chairman should be filled with a distinguished economist specialising in agriculture economics. Sources maintained increased promotion opportunities for the staff had also been proposed in the plan besides provision of equal opportunity to each staff member for promotion to higher cadres. Sources said it was recommended that the seniority of all officers working on professional side be combined. "This will facilitate inter divisional posting and transfers and help in training them on all aspect of price quality", sources quoted the report as saying.

The proposal further states that the present recruitment rules may be amended and quota of promotion for professional staff on BS 20 posts be increased from 25 per cent to 75 per cent, and for B-19 from 30 to 75 per cent. Departmental promotion and direct recruitment quota for staff on administration and finance side is recommended to be retained at the existing level except for increase in promotion quota for the post of executive officer from 30 to 75 per cent and for JEO account from nil to 25 per cent.

The proposal also calls for adequate training facilities for APCOM staff. "The MINFAL should circulate foreign training facilities to APCOM also and consider APCOM staff while making nomination against various training programme. Moreover, the APCOM professional staff be allowed to work for M.Phil and Ph.D in relevant subjects from local universities etc.," it has been proposed.

Apcom's reaction

Meanwhile, sources said APCOM agreed to the proposed restructuring plan noting some of its observations and comments. Sources quoted the Commission as saying it agreed to the suggestion of the Commission meeting all prerequisites for its being declared an attached department of MINFAL. "APCOM fully endorses the proposal," sources quoted it as saying. Sources said it needed be mentioned that various departments established by way of resolution were working as attached departments of various ministries and divisions. In India, sources said, the agriculture prices commission had renamed itself as the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices which gave it a role larger than that of APCOM. Indian commission is a wing of its Ministry of Agriculture and is headed by distinguished professional economists. APCOM said the proposed plan of making it an attached department and appointing its chairman from professional staff of the APCOM or economists group was very valid. The Commission also raised no objection to its reconstitution into a single-member body, sources quoted it as saying. Sources said APCOM itself considered the number and status of administration and account staff to be on the higher side. In all, there are 27 posts of professional staff.