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ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Wednesday informed that 70 percent of Rs900 billion allocated under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2021-22 would be spent on ongoing projects as throw forward of development projects crossed Rs6 trillion. Parliamentarians and even government officials stress on including unapproved projects in the PSDP, which gets lower allocation due to which these projects face delays and its cost escalate. This was stated by senior officials of the Planning Ministry, while briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Planning, Development and Special Initiatives.

They further stated that as per the law now no unapproved project could be added to the PSDP.

The committee met with Saleem Mandviwalla in the chair, here on Wednesday to consider and finalise recommendations of members on the Finance (Amendment) Bill 2021, relating to the PSDP 2021-22.

The committee observed that currently it has no role as per the law no unapproved projects could be added to the PSDP 2021-22, therefore, it necessitates revisiting the Public Finance Management (PFM) Act.

The committee chairman said that the committee should have some role and if needed, they could review the PFM Act. Senator Sardar Muhammad Shafiq Tareen raised the matter of inadequate allocation for DI Khan to Zhob and Zhob-Kuchlak road projects.

He said that these projects would not even start with these allocations.

He also commented that southern Balochistan package is a step to divide Balochistan, as the Pashtun majority districts in northern Balochistan are totally ignored.

He also demanded that Fata-Balochistan scholarship should be continued for at least five more years.

Senator Tareen also raised the issue of dualisation of road from Karachi to Quetta to Chaman.

He asked what is the reason that N-25 road has been divided in two parts.

One is included for government funding, while the other is left to public-private partnership project.

He asked that his road should be prioritised.

He further said the project was approved in 2017; however, only three percent was allocated for the project in the PSDP. Out of Rs81 billion, only Rs3 billion has been allocated, said Tareen, adding that with such a meager amount, even the tender for this project could not be issued. The National Highways Authority (NHA) official said that they had demanded Rs198 billion for the PSDP 2021-22, but was allocated Rs113 billion.

Replying to Tareen’s question, he said that with such an amount even the land could not be acquired.

Officials of the Planning Ministry stated that the NHA gets a one-liner budget.

If it wants to fund a project more, it can do so from elsewhere. The Planning Ministry officials stated that no unapproved project has been financed in the PSDP.

However, the Departmental Development Working Party (DDWP) has been given the authority to approve projects up to Rs2 billion contrary to the past practice of Rs60 million. Further, the Central Development Working Party can approve projects of up to Rs10 billion which was earlier Rs3 billion and above Rs10 billion, projects would be sent to the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC), the official added.

“If we cannot make a recommendation then how to run a committee meeting,” said committee chairman, adding that after the budget they would monitor and evaluate all the projects.

The official of the HEC apprised the committee that there are total 168 projects out of which 128 are ongoing projects, and 40 are new projects. 60 to 70 percent projects are structured and 30 percent are human development projects.

40 new projects have been budgeted this year, total cost of ongoing project is 29.736 billion and cost of new projects is 12.713 billion. This year, total HEC development budget is Rs42.45 billion.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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