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Rs. 250 billion new projects

China, World Bank, ADB and IDB have shown interest in financing for various development projects

From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI
Islamabad
Aug  06 - 12 , 2001

Gigantic Infrastructure Development projects costing about Rs. 250 billion are likely to be announced by President General Musharraf in his address to the nation on Aug. 14. Besides many big development projects aiming to provide jobs to the unemployed and poverty alleviation, the President is all set to announce a clear cut road map for holding provincial and national assembly elections after putting the local government in operation.

The President these days is extremely busy in holding meetings with his economic and constitutional experts in finalising the details. He has held a number of brain storming sessions with his experts to draw a clear and final road map for economic revival and restoration of democracy in the year 2002, which he wants to unfold in his August 14 address to the nation.

On the economic front the President wants to announce over a dozen mega projects in power and water sectors, construction of roads, housing schemes, developments of ports, Thar coal, fisheries and mineral development sector. Pakistan is expected to receive around 1.2 billion US dollars assistance from friendly countries to supplement domestic resources for these mega projects.

A source in the Ministry of Finance disclosed that China, Middle Eastern countries, World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Islamic Development Bank had shown interests in financing for various development projects which the President intends to launch on Independence Day. Saudi loan has been offered on very soft terms with 25 years repayment period and carries only 1/2 per cent service charges only. The loans expected from other friendly countries are also on highly concessional terms. In addition to these friendly countries, concessional credit line (carrying only 1/2 service charges) of about 6 billion dollars is expected during 2002-2005 from IMF, World Bank and other donor agencies under poverty alleviation and growth facility (PRGF). Out of the six billion dollars 2.5 billion is to be provided by IMF and the rest by the World Bank and other donor agencies.

Disclosing this arrangement to the members of Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz proudly said that he hoped that this 3 year PRGF assistance will be last such assistance sought from IMF and other donors as the economy was showing sign of recovery.

The WAPDA Chairman Lt. Gen. Zulfiqar Ali Khan told the participants of the seminar on WAPDA Vision 2025 in Lahore last week that six of the schemes that form part of Vision 2025 are due to be launched in Aug. 2001. They include the Gomal Dam in NWFP, Hingol Dam and Mirani Dam in southern Balochistan, the Greater Thal Canal in Punjab and the Right Bank Outfall Canal in Sindh. The cost of these five schemes to be completed in the next 3/4 years is estimated at nearly 5 billion dollars. Gawader Port and Thar coal deposits, Lyari bypass, Karachi circular Railways, many Housing Schemes, Pindi Bhattian-Multan express way are some of the other projects which may be launched by the President on Aug. 14 this year.

On the political front as well the President is likely to make some important announcement in his address to the nation. Sources said that most of the paper work has been completed by the President's team and it has now to be discussed at National Security Council, Cabinet and Corps Commanders forums before the President makes it public. The process of elections to provincial and national assembly will be completed between July to September next year.

Official sources maintain that after the conclusion of his successful visit to India, President Musharraf is now devoting his attention to the economic and political reforms agenda. His government is also likely to introduce a new set of electoral laws with some constitutional amendments.

Political analysts feel that President Musharraf's move to announce the clear-cut road map for the restoration of democracy will be taken well by the world community which has been pressing the present government to restore civilian rule in the country. The announcement will also lend comfort to the Commonwealth which can expel Pakistan for not restoring democracy within the two years stipulated time frame under the Commonwealth Charter. The Commonwealth heads are due to meet in Brisbane in October this year to consider sanctions against Pakistan.

Musharraf's decision to announce road map 15 months in advance by the Supreme Court's given deadline of October 2002 is also being seen by some analysts that the Pakistan President wants to proceed for UN General Assembly from a point of strength that he is not a military dictator but a true believer of pluralism and liberal democratic society. Musharraf is believed to be holding a number of meetings with world leaders, including his very crucial meeting with the Indian Prime Minister, and also an informal meeting with American President George Bush on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly annual meeting in September this year.