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ISLAMABAD: The Policy Committee of the Universal Service Fund (USF) under the Ministry of Information Technology (IT) and Telecommunication has approved the budget of over Rs18 billion for 30 projects for the financial year 2021-22.

The policy committee meeting was chaired by Federal Minister for IT and Telecommunication, Syed Aminul Haque, which also directed speedy release of funds.

The meeting was also attended by the Federal Secretary for IT and Telecommunication, Dr Sohail Rajput, Senior Joint Secretary, Toaha Hussain Bugti, Member Telecom, Muhammad Omar Malik, and other representatives from the Cabinet and the Finance Division.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of USF, Haris Mahmood Chaudhry, apprised the Policy Committee on the performance of the last three years and the proposed plans for the new financial year 2021-22.

While addressing the meeting, the federal minister said that under the present government, the USF has shown a 100 percent increase in its productivity since inception, with six projects in the first year, 12 projects in the second year, and 25 projects in the third year.

It is a testament to the rapid and exceptional performance of the company on which the team deserves compliments.

The USF company must maintain this positive momentum with transparency, quality, and timely completion of projects. As advised by the prime minister, the federal minister directed the USF to immediately start projects for the provision of broadband services at key tourist destinations in the northern areas and complete them on a priority basis.

He expressed satisfaction over the proposed plans to provide uninterrupted high speed mobile broadband services on national highways and to deliver optical fiber cable to the level of Union Councils across the country to adapt Pakistan to the requirements of the future, including 5G.

Haque also said that broadband services and optical fiber projects in the rural and remote areas of the four provinces are fundamental to the fulfillment of Digital Pakistan vision.

At the same time, the USF should develop a system of strict monitoring of these projects, so that there are no shortcomings and unnecessary delays.

On the recommendation of the committee members, the federal minister directed the USF to submit a progress report on the status of the projects every three months.

The CEO-USF apprised the members of the committee and said that the project in Kohistan region has faced delays due to extreme weather conditions and difficult routes, while another project in the ex-Fata province due to the security situation in the area.

These projects are only five percent of the total projects, while 95 percent of the projects are progressing at their own pace and almost 50 to 75 percent of the work has been completed.

Further, he added that the USF has a transparent system of technical and monitoring audit based on which the funds are released in proportion to the work completed on the projects.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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