PESHAWAR, June 23: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Finance Sirajul Haq has said that bureaucracy in Islamabad has become a stumbling block in the execution of new hydel power projects in the province.
Concluding discussion on annual budget for the year 2013-14 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on Sunday, he said that the provincial government had prepared feasibility reports of 20 sites in different areas of the province that could generate at least 20,000 megawatts electricity.
“Unfortunately, bureaucracy in Islamabad is prejudiced and does not want to start work on hydel power generation projects in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” the minister said.
He said that the bureaucracy was pursuing controversial projects like Kalabagh and Bhasha dams, but it was ignoring the feasible projects.
Appreciating the previous government’s energy policy, he said that the sitting government had allocated Rs38 billion for power projects and 20 more feasibility studies had been conducted. He invited the federal government to finance projects in hydel sector in the province to steer the country out of the energy crises.
The minister expected that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would receive Rs84 billion from the centre on account of Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP). He lamented that the previous government had announced to release more than Rs92 billion under PSDP but only Rs2 billion were released.
Mr Siraj said that total outstanding debts against Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were Rs132 billion while Rs15 billion were allocated in the budget for payment of the debts. In 2006, he said, when he was holding portfolio of finance in the province, total outstanding debts against the province stood at Rs60 billion.
Responding to the members’ reservations and demands, the minister said that he had never claimed that it was a perfect budget, but the government had tried its level best to make it a balanced and people-friendly in the shortest possible time.
Mr Siraj said that treasury and opposition benches should fight against ignorance, poverty and corruption. He was confident that the province would not need loans and grants from money lending agencies if federal government released Rs84 billion under the PSDP and the government ensured transparency.
Corruption and commission in works and services department was major issue and it would be eradicated, the minister said. He said that government had taken austerity measures to reduce non-developmental expenditures. He said that 53 per cent of the Annual Development Programme had been allocated for ongoing schemes.
About representation of women in the provincial cabinet, Mr Siraj said that he wished to have separate assembly for women to discuss their problems openly. He said that 500 monitors would be hired for monitoring activities in schools and colleges.
Earlier, Awami National Party MPA Jafar Shah said that the previous government established regional languages authority to promote local languages in the province, but funds had not been allocated for it. He proposed to allocate funds for the revival of silk industry in Swat to provide jobs to over 40,000 workers.
Minister for Agriculture Shahram Khan proposed that provincial government should declare tobacco as cash crop and the province should have its own tobacco board to facilitate local growers.
Other lawmakers from treasury and opposition benches demanded provision of facilities in hospitals, appointment of doctors, paramedics, opening of new schools and colleges and appointment of teachers.
They were of the view that hospitals and health units had been constructed but doctors and other facilities had not been provided there. They also suggested investment in tourism sector.
Pakistan People’s Party MPA Nighat Orakzai on a point of order condemned killing of foreign tourists in Gilgit-Baltistan and proposed that treasury and opposition benches should pass unanimous resolution against the barbaric act.
Meanwhile, four MPAs of Jamaat-i-Islami, who had boycotted the assembly proceedings against inequitable distribution of funds in the annual budget, ended their protest after a meeting with the party’s leadership on Saturday night and attended the session on Sunday.