Punjab’s $50m tourism project hits a snag

Updated September 15, 2019

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The project after two years of ineffectiveness has disbursed less than eight per cent of the total $50 million loan. — Prism/File
The project after two years of ineffectiveness has disbursed less than eight per cent of the total $50 million loan. — Prism/File

ISLAMABAD: The Punjab Tourism for Economic Growth Project (PTEGP), launched to promote Punjab’s tourism potential, has failed to take off despite a delay of more than two years, said the World Bank in a report issued on Saturday.

The project, approved by the World Bank in March 2017, after two years of ineffectiveness has disbursed less than eight per cent of the total $50 million loan.

In view of the government’s priority to promote tourism development, especially in view of the sector’s potential to trigger economic growth, the PTEGP has one of the highest potentials among the tourism development initiatives.

Background studies inform that the sites selected under the project have the potential to put Pakistan in general and Punjab in particular on international tourism scene, especially for South Asia diaspora and Buddhist tourists. Kartarpur was the first site identified for the project that has now attained regional and international recognition.

Key positions in the project management unit have remained vacant, while almost 60pc of project’s finances are allocated to civil work but not been initiated yet due to various delays.

At the time of the project’s inception, Punjab government had agreed with the World Bank to construct prioritised roads and site-specific ancillary infrastructure with the help of Planning and Development Department under the supervision of Communica­tions and Works Depart­ment, however due to coordination issues and bureaucratic delays at planning and development stage, these activities have not taken place.

As a result, the project has been remained in a limbo since June 2018. The situation has further exacerbated due to delays in development of Museum and Site Management Plans by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

It was anticipated that plans for Lahore Museum and Kartas Raj, Rohri Sahib, and Sacha Sauda Sahib would be completed by September so that construction and livelihoods generating activities could be initiated at selected sites. However, due to procurement delays internal to UNESCO, the plans will be finalised by December.

Moreover, seven roads have been prioritised for immediate construction for which the Planning and Development Working Party meeting will be held in September.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2019