Oct 29 - Nov 04, 2007

The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) during its second meeting in the current financial year (July 2007-June 2008) held in Islamabad on Monday approved 23 projects involving an expenditure of over Rs.116 billion. In its first meeting it had approved 45 projects worth over Rs.154 billion. Approval of 68 projects under the Public Sector Development programme worth Rs.270 billion in the first 5 months of the fiscal year is an all time record allocation.

The ECNEC meeting on Monday was presided over by the Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, the 23 projects included 14 new, costing RS. 69 billion and 9 revised projects costing 47.5 billion. The projects have been approved in Agriculture, Energy, Science and Technology, Water, Transport and Communication, Environment, Higher Education and Culture sectors.

Speaking on the occasion, the Prime Minister informed the ECNEC that projects had been approved during the last three years. The frequent meetings of ECNEC, the Prime Minister said, held during the last three years, were aimed at cutting down delays in the development projects approval process. This had resulted in generating speedy development activities in the country, he said, adding that the government has compiled a booklet for distribution on the three years' performance. He said that special attention had bee given by ECNEC to approve development projects in the energy sector to meet the future requirements. He lauded the efforts of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission Chairman for developing indigenous technology to launch classified and non-classified nuclear energy projects in the country.

Later, briefing newsmen, Planning Commission, Deputy Chairman Dr. Akram Shaikh said that 45 projects were approved in the previous ECNEC meeting, and added that total projects approved in two months, September and October stood at 68. He said that the government envisages to enhance nuclear power production to 8800 megawatt, and added that two mega projects-Chemical processing Plant (CPP) and Nuclear Fuel Enrichment Plant (NEFP)-have been approved by the Council.

He, however, said that feasibility study for establishing NFEP was in progress and the place for setting up the plant was yet to be finalized. Other development projects in energy field also included Oil and Gas Exploration in Balochistan and Chashma Hydropower Project, he said.

The ECNEC also approved a social sector development project aimed at providing higher education opportunities for students of Balochistan and FATA.

He said that the government would also establish 10 engineering universities in the country, and added that the one such university would be established in Islamabad with the help of China. The ECNEC approved the proposal for acquiring the land for the university in the capital city. The government, through Higher Education Commission, would provide 2000 scholarships at primary, college and university levels, with 60 percent quota for Balochistan and 40 percent for FATA.

Clean drinking water for all, Balochistan small scale irrigation project and Toiwar-Batozai Storage Dam project, rehabilitation and reconstruction of Bolan Dam Project were also approved in the meeting.

The ECNEC also approved the Establishment of Pak-China Friendship center in Islamabad. The Prime Minister directed that keeping in view the special relationship between China and Pakistan, CDA should offer land for this project at rates admissible to government projects.

In the sector of Science and Technology, the ECNEC approved two projects, namely Establishment of the National Institute of Lasers and Opttronics at Islamabad, and Construction of Office Building for Ministry of Science and Technology in Islamabad.

Dr. Akram informed the journalists that 662 projects costing Rs. 2.36 trillion had been approved by the government in last 8 years, which included 394 projects related to infrastructure building, and 200 projects in social sector and other miscellaneous projects.

The 45 projects approved by the ECNEC in its last meeting worth over Rs.154 billion including foreign component of about Rs.37 billion. The projects approved included 3 strategic nuclear fuel projects to ensure fuel supply to nuclear power plants that would be installed for generating about 9000 Megawatts electricity by the 2020.

It may be mentioned that out of 45 approved projects 39 are new while six are revised with an upward cost. The cost of new projects would be RS. 140.7 billion including RS. 35.1 billion foreign exchange component. The cost of the revised projects has escalated by RS. 5.9 billion from Rs.7.5 billion to RS.13.4 billion. In transport and communication sector, the meeting approved 12 projects worth Rs. 36.756 billion, eight projects in energy sector of Rs.20.7 billion, four in physical planning and housing of Rs.10.8 billion and three projects in water and agriculture sector of Rs.30.4 billion.

In education sector, ECNEC approved five projects. It also approved a significant project under which 57000 schools would be provided with missing facilities that includes federal government's contribution of Rs.7.7 will be financed by provincial governments. ECNEC also approved Rs.1.687 billion for resettlement of affectes of Mirani dam, who were affected in the recent cycle that hit Balochistan. In the infrastructure sector, 29 development projects, costing Rs.100.8 billion were approved. The ECNEC approved 7 projects, worth Rs.37.5 billion in social sector, and 9 schemes costing 15.8 billion were approved in other sectors, like agriculture, industries, commerce, etc.

The highest number of projects were approved for Punjab where the number of projects is 15 with a cost of RS. 45.5 billion, including an among of Rs.4.4 billion a s FEC. In Sindh, the number projects are three, with a cost of Rs.21.6 billion, with FEC of RS. 11.2 billion. For the NWFP, the number of approved projects is five, costing Rs.15.1 billion, with FEC of RS. 5.1 billion. Similarly, five projects, worth Rs.7.2 billion, with FEC of Rs.2.3 billion, have been approved for Balochistan.