41 development projects involving a total outlay of Rs. 203 billion


Dec 20 - 26, 2004




















The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) in its first meeting in the current financial year, approved 41 development projects involving a total outlay of Rs. 203 billion. The delayed ECNEC meeting presided over by the Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in his capacity as Finance Minister has approved the highest number of schemes with highest ever expenditure involved.

However, one project on the list Thal Canal Remodeling Project could not be approved because of strong opposition from Sindh Province. A committee has now been formed to resolve the issue between Punjab & Sindh and the project was deferred to the next meeting.

Addressing a joint press conference, Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue, Dr. Salman Shah, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Dr. Akram Sheikh and Planning Commission Secretary Humayun Farshori said that the ECNEC had approved 32 new projects worth Rs. 150 billion, and nine ongoing projects of Rs. 53 billion. The projects belong to energy, agriculture, education training, higher education, environment, industries and physical planning sectors.

Salman said that ECNEC had approved lining of 86,000 water courses and drainage programme throughout the country at an estimated cost of Rs. 66 billion, while Rs. 70 billion would be spent on rehabilitation of power distribution system of WAPDA's distribution companies Discos. He said that Rs. 8.8 billion has been earmarked for repairing Sukkur and Taunsa barrages, physical and environment programme. Most of the projects were development projects, which would create more jobs in the country, he added.

Dr. Akram said that 480 million would be spent on institutional strengthening and capacity building of Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA). The government would hire 55 international and national experts for this purpose. A project was being launched in Kohlu (Balochistan) to develop infrastructure for the oil and gas exploration companies.

Answering a question, Humayun Farshori said that the government has decided to consitute a four-member committee to monitor the projects, including transparency and their timely implementation. He said that the ECNEC had approved Rs. 1 billion for emergency repair of Sukkur barrage and Rs. 7.8 billion for repair of Taunsa barrage. He said that government bodies like Capital Development Authority (CDA) had been given conditional autonomy to approve and start new projects from their own resources. The CDA and other bodies would have to form a committee comprising representatives from Planning Commission and Finance to obtain approval of the projects without approaching the CDWP and ECNEC, and added that if the representative of Finance or Planning Commission does not attend the meeting, the body could not approve any project.

About Thal Canal remodeling project, it was learnt from official sources, the ECNEC failed to approved the project as Sindh opposed it on the ground that it would be in violation of 1991 IRSA water accord. According to the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) accord 7,500 cusecs water will be available to the Thal Canal, but after remodeling the capacity of the canal would be increased to 9,000 cusecs. The provision of 9,000 cusecs water to the Thal Canal would be in violation of the Irsa 1991 Accord. The source said that the water and power minister tried to convince the representative of Sindh about remodeling and informed the meeting that the province should not be concerned over the additional 1,500 cusecs water as it would not be withdrawn from the allocated provincial water share. "No deduction would be made from the Sindh share as the increased allocation, which will be required after remodeling, would be met from flood water, the minister said. But the Sindh representative was not ready to accept the government's viewpoint, the source said. The Prime Minister directed the water and power minister and Irsa to remove the reservation of Sindh regarding remodeling of the Thal Canal and after that the project would be approved.



The Advisor to Prime Minister on Finance Dr. Salman Shah admitted that ECNEC meeting had been unduly delayed. According to him, at least two such meetings should have been held so far in the first five months of the current financial year. Traditionally, about 20 to 22 projects were presented for financial allocation in each ECNEC meeting in the past, but this time as many as 41 projects were considered and a total allocation of Rs. 203 billion was approved that included Rs. 150 billion for new projects and Rs. 53 billion for the ongoing ones.

The delayed approval would naturally result in the crowding of a relatively large number of projects and therefore their implementation is also likely to be delayed beyond the targeted schedule for completion, specially in the key sectors like water and power, and new initiatives in the hitherto unattended avenues for development would also have to drag.

A project that could be seen as an entirely new initiative with the allocation of Rs. 48 million relates to institutional strengthening and capacity building of Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA). As many as 55 local and foreign scientists/experts are going to be appointed in various position within its framework. The step undoubtedly would be seen as a well timed initiative not only to ensure safety against the possibility of nuclear proliferation but also to convince foreign countries and the International Atomic Energy Agency of Pakistan's foolproof system to prevent any misuse of its nuclear capability by unscrupulous elements.

On the important project, Rs. 70 billion has been approved for the expansion of power transmission/distribution capacity of WAPDA's newly created distribution companies (DISCOS). This project must be taken up for implementation in right earnest because the energy sector is already suffering from growing power shortage. The operational capacity of the DISCOS has to be augmented as quickly as possible to cater for the power requirements of the various sectors of the economy. The World Bank has also been expressing concern over the continuing delay in the implementation process of WAPDA's unbundling. Another project having been allocated Rs. 66 billion relates to brick lining of 86 water courses throughout the country. This project should be completed with speed in view of the urgent need to save canal water from extensive seepage. Moreover, as water distribution has become a serious political issue, work on this project should be taken up simultaneously in the four provinces of the country with active participation of the provincial governments.