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ISLAMABAD: The government has sought restructuring of World Bank’s “Pakistan Community Support Project (CASA-1000)” worth $15 million after it faced delays due to disruptions in implementation caused by the 2022 floods emergency and price escalations leading to shortage of materials available for civil works. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, via the Ministry of Economic Affair, government of Pakistan, has requested that the closing date of the project be extended to September 30, 2023. The project’s funding envelope will remain unchanged.

CASA-1000, PCSP was approved on June 3, 2020 and became effective on July 29, 2020 with an overall allocation of $15 million. The closing date of the project was June 30, 2023. The Project Development Objective (PDO) is to improve access to local infrastructure and strengthen community engagement in the project areas.

The project has five components: i) Component A – Community Outreach and Communications for CASA-1000 ($0.5 million); ii) Component B – Community Mobilization and Capacity Building ($2.0 million); iii) Component C – Community Investments in Small Infrastructure Schemes ($10.5 million); iv) Component D – Project Management, implementation, and Monitoring and Evaluation ($2.0 million); and V) Component E – Contingent Emergency Response Component (CERC) ($0.00).

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In 2014, the World Bank approved the CASA-1000 regional transmission line project between four countries, establishing a landmark regional energy sharing program across Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Within each country, community level projects were approved within the corridor of influence of the transmission line. The $15 million MDTF grant funded project ($2 million from CASA 1000 Project MDTF and $13 million from MDTF KP/ FATA/ Balochistan), Pakistan Community Support Program (PCSP) was approved in 2020 as Pakistan’s community support project. The Project provides community-level infrastructure investments in 165 communities within the 4-kilometer-wide corridor of influence of the CASA-1000 transmission line across three districts in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The project experienced delays in initial years of implementation, including those caused by the challenging situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Shutdown of key offices, as well as, government measures to enable social distancing resulted in delays to project implementation. To address this situation, the project was provided a one-year extension to ensure activities are completed.

The PCSP has experienced additional delays in fiscal year 2023 including due to disruptions in implementation caused by the 2022 floods emergency. Implementation of sub-projects was further impacted because of rapid changes in government decision makers (including transfers of three Director Generals and two Project Directors in a span of four months) and staff turnover, and price escalations (up to 40% increase in cost of materials) leading to shortage of materials available for small civil works contracts in the project areas.

In April 2023, the incumbent Project Director took charge with full support of the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (GoKP). This has helped in accelerating the pace of construction. It has helped take the number of completed schemes from 10 in April 2023 to 83 in June 2023. The PSCP team, under the leadership of the new Project Director, has created a schedule of implementation that can help achieve completion of 165 schemes by September 2023. Works on the four-flood protection special projects are under way and are also expected to be completed by September 30, 2023. Completion of the sub-projects and special projects is critical to meeting the expectations amongst beneficiaries because of the mobilization and prioritization activities.

The GoKP, via the Ministry of Economic Affair, Government of Pakistan, has requested that the closing date of the project be extended to September 30, 2023. A Level 2 restructuring is required to reflect this in project documents. The GoKP has taken measures to address causes of delays in implementation to help ensure the targeted activities are completed by September 30, 2023.

The GoKP has banned further transfers and postings until further notice, and staff vacancies have been filled. Price escalations and inflationary pressures that impacted cost estimates and contracting have been resolved through contract amendments, and contractors are now mobilized to complete civil works. Recently, the PMU and the Bank team have intensified supervision of project activities, with monthly missions to supervise field level works, and weekly progress review meetings of all sub-projects. Finally, recent flooding disrupted implementation of civil works. While monsoon-related floods remain a risk, the project is prioritising the completion of flood protection works by mid-July. The flood risks are deemed to be less risky in Khyber district, where the bulk of the remaining sub-projects are located.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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