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ISLAMABAD: The federal government would directly transfer its funds to assignment account of project director to avoid delay, and to expedite work on the development projects of the provinces. Secretary Planning Development and Special Initiatives Mathar Niaz Rana Monday told this to the Senate Standing Committee on Planning, Development and Special Initiatives during his briefing.

The committee met with Senator Agha Shahzaib Durrani in the chair at the Parliament House. The Secretary Planning said that we conveyed to the provinces specially Balochistan to establish assignment account of project director to transfer fund for the federal-funded development projects of the provinces.

He said that many projects are delayed and work gets slowed down in the current procedure. He said that two to three months are spent for utilising funds under the on-going procedure.

He said this process, fist the funds transfer to account no 1 of the province, then transfer to secretary finance of the province, and then release to project director.

It was also told to the Committee during the briefing that Pakistan has received foreign assistance amounting to over $3.55 billion as loans and grants from various bilateral and multilateral development partners to address the health-related and socioeconomic challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The secretary planning told the Committee that the G-20 countries provided relief of $2.013 billion through debt service suspension to provide fiscal relief in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said the external economic assistance provided fiscal space to the government to divert financial resources for saving lives and livelihoods of the people and mitigate economic impact of the COVID-19. He said it also helped to improve foreign exchanges reserves, stabilise exchange rate and build buffers against external economic shocks.

However, the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Incentives and the Ministry of Health could not explain and satisfy the members of the Committee about the components and expenditure of the funds related to the projects because most of the projects were related to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).

While expressing dissatisfaction over the briefing, the committee decided to call the chairman NDMA in the next meeting. According to documents placed in the meeting of the Committee, the World Bank committed $500 million loan and disbursed $111 million to the NDMA, the BISP, the Ministry of Health, the Asian Development Bank committed $350 million and disbursed $248 million to the NDMA, the BISP, the NDRMF, and France (AfD) committed $51.17 million and disbursed $ 21.42 million to the NDRMF etc.

The documents further reveled about budgetary support (loans), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) provided $1.386 billion loan to the Finance Division, the ADB gave $500 million, and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) provided $750 million loan to Pakistan.

All amounts of three multinational organisations have been disbursed. About the grants, the ADB has committed $7.78 million grant, while $0.50 million disbursed to the Ministry of Health and the NDRMF, the United Nations provided $0.40 million grant, Japan committed $28.33 million, while $2.87 million disbursed, China provided $4 million grants, the United States of America (USA) committed $31.87 million and disbursed $20.87 million, and the European Union (EU) committed $57.34 million and disbursed $ 39.5 million.

Committee Chairman Senator Agha Shahzaib Durrani said that the Committee should be informed about the monitoring support and equipments for controlling the epidemic. He said that in the next meeting, the concerned agencies should brief the Committee in detail on how much funds were received and where it was spent.

The committee was told that the funds that were coming in include many agencies and they were registered and monitored. The Committee chairman said that there was another statement of the Ministry of Health in the working paper, and what was being briefed was another in the meeting. The members of the committee said that the working papers were not provided in time and they could not study them.

The members said that it was better to postpone the agenda till the next meeting and read it and then review it in detail. About the details of the RBOD-II project, the committee expressed displeasure over the secretary Irrigation Balochistan and summoned him in the next meeting. The Committee chairman said that the project was 21 years old but it was not being completed. The committee also decided to write a letter of displeasure to the secretary Irrigation.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020