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Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar has directed the financing committee to expedite its work and engage with the Chinese side to finalise the terms and conditions of financing of the ML-1 Railways Project.

The minister chaired a meeting to review the present status of preparation and processing of PC-I of the ML-1 project and the Pakistan Railways Strategic Plan here on Tuesday.

Dr Ishrat Hussain, adviser to the prime minister on institutional reforms and austerity, deputy chairperson Planning Commission, secretaries planning and railways and senior officials of both the ministries participated in the meeting.

A financing committee for ML-1 Railway Project had been constituted, which has been looking into the modalities for the implementation of the project with regard to the terms and conditions of financing.

The meeting was informed that the umbrella PC-1 of the project was under review in the Planning Commission. Considering the significance of the project as well as the scale of financing required for the project, the Planning Commission is carrying out the required due diligence in consultation with all the relevant stakeholders. For this purpose the Commission also arranged a consultative workshop on the project in the last week of January 2020.

The financing committee has already asked Economic Affairs Division (EAD) to advice the Chinese side, of the Government of Pakistan's readiness for the execution of the project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Planning Minister Asad Umar said that the government was keen to improve and upgrade the railways infrastructure in the country and ML-1 was the most important project in that regard. He said that improvement of efficiency, freight services and providing quality traveling facilities to commuters was the government's objective.

The minister emphasised the need for devising a holistic strategy for developing and upgrading infrastructure across the country and fill connectivity gaps for sustained national growth.

Umar said the railways should expedite the remaining work of 3rd party review so that the same can be processed for approval at the earliest.

He stressed on the Ministry of Railways that the institutional/organisational reforms were inevitable for sustenance of the railways and for its future operation and maintenance of the system. In this regard, the railways should implement reforms and improve the organisational structure to be able to handle a much bigger infrastructure.

The minister said that apart from ML-1, the Karachi Circular Railway was also an important project in the same sector. Umar said that the government wanted to finalise/implement both those projects. Railways secretary expressed the desire and readiness of the ministry for executing both the projects at the earliest.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020

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