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ISLAMABAD: The World Bank is likely to further downgrade the $200 million locust emergency and food security project for Pakistan, besides cancelling partial commitment bringing it down to $104 million, after facing inordinate delay in implementation on account of the government, it is learnt.

Official documents revealed that the project was approved on July 31, 2020, but only $15 million have disbursed so far and $185 million remain un-disbursed. The closing date is June 30, 2023. The project is moderately satisfactory (interim rating pending next implementation support mission—downgrade expected).

The documents noted that issues including that no official decision has been forthcoming regarding the project restructuring or cancellation after several months of dialogue, no continuity in ministry team — this has resulted in significant setback and delays, significant capacity constraints in ministry contributing to delays in decision making and limited progress on project startup activities.

The World Bank and Pakistan, on Wednesday, agreed to expedite the projects implementation, as some of them are facing inordinate delays and rated problematic.

Omar Ayub Khan, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs chaired a high-level meeting to review the progress on different projects funded by the World Bank. The meeting was attended by the World Bank Team, led by Najy Benhassine, country director, and senior officers of the EAD.

Najy Benhassine briefed the minister that currently, 54 projects are being implemented under the WB’s financing of $12.4 billion across the country. Out of 54 projects, 23 projects worth $7.8 billion are being implemented by the federal government against which $3.4 billion has been disbursed so far.

During the meeting, projects related to energy sector were given special focus including National Transmission Modernization Project, Tarbela Fourth Extension Hydropower Project and Dasu Hydropower (Stage 1) Project.

According to official documents, the World Bank has disbursed $290 million against the committed $588 million for Dasu Hydropower (Stage 1) Project and $298 million remain un-disbursed. Major issues in project implementation include; (1) The implementation of T5 HPP remained very slow due to; (i) Annulment of hiring process of consultancy services for construction supervision in July 2012 and delay in finalisation of 2nd hiring process for more than 18 months; (ii) Delay in preparation of procurements documents and award of major contracts; (2) Capacity and HR constraints at PMU level-major cause of slow implementation; and (3) slow implementation progress on solar pilot project.

The Khyber Pass Economic Corridor project is to be completed in May 2026 with $460 million financing by the World Bank; however, one million dollars have so far been disbursed to the project over the past two years.

The minister directed to expedite the implementation of Islamabad West Substation which is important link to evacuate power from Dasu Hydropower Project. It was noted that the new security arrangements have been put in place and overall implementation progress of Dasu Hydropower Project has been improved as 11 major contracts amounting to $3 billion have been awarded including electro-mechanical works.

Sources revealed that the 5th extension of Tarbela Hydropower Project (T5HP) is facing serious delay in implementation and the World Bank has disbursed only $46 million against the committed amount of $390 million. Under 5th extension of Tarbela Hydropower Project, the power generation capacity of Tarbela Dam will be enhanced by 1,410 MW.

The KP programme, called SPEED, which was launched under the finance and revenue mechanism, was to receive $400 million, but only $96 million have disbursed so far.

The World Bank team informed the minister that the National Immunization Support Project is heading toward its successful completion in June 2022. Second round of Third-Party Vaccination Immunization Coverage Survey will be conducted in April 2022, based on which, funds can be disbursed for DLI-related payments.

Other projects including Pakistan Housing Finance (Additional Financing), Resilient Institutions to Sustainable Economy (RSE-II), National Health Support Program, and Program for Affordable and Clean Energy (PACE-II) were also discussed in the meeting.

The minister also directed the EAD officials to set up a project management unit in the Division with the assistance of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank for effective and efficient monitoring of the development projects.

The minister emphasized on designing a substantial program to track the outcomes of ongoing projects. The minister further directed the relevant authorities to identify the critical path and set timelines for expeditious implementation of all the foreign-funded projects.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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