ISLAMABAD: No allocations would be made in the next budget for unapproved projects and efforts are in progress to secure a $9 billion Chinese loan for Main Railway Line (ML-1) at around two per cent interest, a Senate committee was told on Thursday.
At a meeting of the panel, federal Minister for Planning, Development & Reforms Asad Umar said he had issued directives that no unapproved project should be included in the next Public Sector Development Programme. No project will be included in the PSDP in future till land is purchased for it.
He said it would also be settled in advance whether a project would be funded by the federal government or the province concerned. “We have seen the fate of Karachi Green Line and other projects,” the minister said while referring to cost escalations and delays in various projects due to undecided issues.
The meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Planning, Development & Reforms, presided over by Senator Agha Shahzaib Durrani, discussed various issues related to Nai Gaj dam, ML-I, toll tax on Motorway and G.T. road and new projects.
No allocations in next budget for unapproved projects, Senate committee told
The committee emphasised the need to improve fencing on motorways and their enhanced surveillance, besides maintenance of Grand Trunk Road on priority to avoid wear and tear of vehicles and safety of passengers.
Discussing the issues relating to design and upgradation of ML-1, a senior officer of the Ministry of Railways told the committee that 80pc design work of the 1,680km project had been completed. “The project is going to cost more than $9bn and the government is trying to secure loan for it at around 2pc interest,” he said. If the loan was obtained, he added, it would be the lowest interest rate among all the projects on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor portfolio.
The meeting was told the project was anticipated to generate 20,000 direct and 150,000 indirect jobs and would be completed in three phases. Under phase-I, four sections will be completed in three to four years.
The project will increase line speed and capacity and freight volume. The speed of passenger train will increase from the current 65 to 110km to 160km per hour, while freight train will be operated at 120km per hour from almost half the speed at present.
The committee directed the officials concerned to submit traffic count of major motorway projects — M1, M2 and M9 — within a week. Keeping account of traffic congestion, it was recommended that a traffic strategy must be formulated as early as possible to ensure smooth and safe traffic in the country.
Discussing compliance on the committee’s recommendations, its chairman said Wapda was holding the Planning Commission responsible for delay in construction of Nai Gaj dam in Sindh. The meeting was informed that letters had been issued to Wapda and other relevant agencies to take action against those responsible for the delay. The panel decided to have an exclusive meeting on the issue and directed that a response from the Department of Irrigation, Government of Sindh must be sought within a week.
Taking up the issue of 300 scholarships for girl students of less developed areas, the committee was informed that a proposal had been finalised on the matter. However, its implementation will begin in conjunction with the Ehsas Programme that envisages award of 50,000 scholarships. The committee decided to wait until the programme was launched and the Higher Education Commission submitted a detailed report to examine the entire episode in depth.
During discussion on special seats in medical colleges / universities for students belonging to the tribal districts and Balochistan, the committee was told the Pakistan Medical Commission would address the matter later. Minister Umar assured the panel that he would personally take up the matter with the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Health Dr Zafar Mirza and the issue could also be raised at the Council of Common Interests. The matter will also be referred to Senate Standing Committee on Less Developed Areas.
Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2019