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ISLAMABAD: The Water Division has sought an allocation of about Rs204 billion for projects under the 2018-19 Pub­lic Sector Development Pro­g­ra­mme — almost 10 times higher than the Rs22bn earmarked for the current fiscal year.

According to a summary sent to the Planning Commission, the water division has submitted a list of 116 projects with a total estimated cost of Rs2.29 trillion, including Rs1.65trn wor­th of unapproved project cost.

It said that an amount of about Rs465bn had already been spent on these projects, while an amount of Rs1.8trn shown as throw forward i.e. the estimated funds required to complete these projects. It said the government would need at least Rs203.7bn for progress on these projects during the financial year 2018-19, while another Rs201.4bn would be required during the fiscal year 2019-20.

Likewise, the water division has also estimated a financial requirement of Rs239.5bn for 2020-21 based on assumptions that it will secure almost Rs204bn next year (2018-19) and Rs201bn during 2019-20.

Of the Rs203.7bn sought for the next fiscal year, the water division has reported that an amount of Rs7.3bn is expected to flow from abroad as foreign exchange component, while Rs198.4bn will have to be set aside from domestic resources.

A Planning Commission official told Dawn that the ministries and divisions traditionally pitched higher funding requirements which were debated in detail during ‘priorities committee meetings’ of the ministries of finance and planning and the ministry concerned. He said the meetings were tentatively scheduled for the last week of March where the water division would have to justify its demands for appropriation based on national priorities and the available resource envelope.

The official said the water sector was a top priority area for the next year after last few years’ focused investments in energy and communication sectors, but the government would have to make sure that many ongoing projects in the PSDP got sufficient funds.

He said the projects that were in advanced stages would continue to get top priority in next year’s budget to ensure that these were completed at the earliest and start delivering designed objectives to the people. Giving an example, the official recalled that the ministries and divisions had demanded more than Rs2.8trn under the 2017-18 PSDP, but the federal government finally allocated around Rs1trn and that too might not be possible for the executing agencies to utilise.

The official said the prime minister and his adviser on economic affairs had already decided in principle that no new project would be included in the next year’s PSDP.

However, projects of national importance will have to pass the scrutiny by the top leadership of the provinces and the federal government on merit during meetings of the Annual Plan Coordination Committee comprising federal and provincial development ministers and the National Economic Council headed by the prime minister and comprising provincial chief ministers and the prime minister of Azad Kashmir and the chief executive of Gilgit-Baltistan.

Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2018