ISLAMABAD: Shaukat Tarin, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance, chairing the Ecnec meeting on Wednesday.—PPI
ISLAMABAD: Shaukat Tarin, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance, chairing the Ecnec meeting on Wednesday.—PPI

ISLAMABAD: The Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) on Wednesday approved four development projects worth over Rs265 billion, including the construction of Hyderabad-Sukkur Motorway (M6) on build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis.

The Ecnec meeting was presided over by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Shaukat Tarin. The meeting approved the revised project of construction of Hyderabad-Sukkur Motorway on the BOT basis at a cost of Rs191.471bn. The project is to be executed by the National Highway Authority and envisages construction of 306km, 6-lane, fenced motorway between Hyderabad and Sukkur.

The project would be included in the next federal budget and is expected to be completed in 30 months. The project was cleared by the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) in April and subsequently approved by Ecnec in May at a cost of Rs191.46bn with observation to address certain deficiencies. The project cost, in the meanwhile, slightly increased to Rs191.47bn.

Projects include six-lane Hyderabad-Sukkur Motorway

The project is to be implemented on the BOT user-charge basis with the provision of significantly higher financial contribution by the federal government through a capital and operational viability gap fund to improve the financial viability of the project.

As of April 12, the Public-Private Partnership Authority (P3A) was proposing Rs76bn government funding, or almost 39 per cent share, which was later increased to almost 50pc. The BOT is practically now on 50:50 shareholding from the public and private sectors.

The P3A board of directors had approved the provision of Rs92bn from the budget and through toll charges to make the Hyderabad-Sukkur Motorway project financially viable and attractive for private parties.

Earlier, the government was seeking execution of the project without budget support and wanted it to be fully funded by the private sector which did not come up with the response the government was anticipating when the BOT model was originally finalised and approved in January and March last year, respectively. At that time, the government’s original share was put at Rs1.1bn, or 0.7pc.

Ecnec also approved two road projects worth around Rs48.57bn for Rawalpindi. The first project ‘Land Acquisition for Lai Expressway & Flood Channel, Rawalpindi’ was approved at a cost of Rs24.961bn. The committee directed that no expenditure should be incurred till completion of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report and approval of the project from the PPP board.

The project will be executed by the Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA) and envisages acquisition of 750 Kanals of land to provide right of way for construction of Lai Nullah Expressway and flood channel which would constitute an integral part of transportation network of Rawalpindi besides serving the purposes of flood mitigation and sewage disposal.

The second project for Rawalpindi approved by Ecnec was the controversial ‘Construction of Rawalpindi Ring Road (R3), main carriageway from Baanth (N-5) to Thallian (M-2)’ at an estimated cost of Rs23.606bn. The committee also directed authorities concerned to acquire the concurrence of the Planning Commission and inclusion of axle load management in the project.

The provincial annual development plan of Punjab will finance the project and the RDA will execute the project for construction of 38.3km, 6-lane, access-controlled Rawalpindi ring road.

The project had earlier led to a major scandal involving some PTI leaders on the basis of which Prime Minister Imran Khan had sacked some of his aides and some senior government officials.

The meeting also approved revised Southern Punjab Poverty Alleviation Project at a cost of Rs25.243bn. Contributions from the International Fund for Agriculture Development and the Punjab government will fund the project spread over 10 districts of Punjab.

The meeting also discussed Greater Thal Canal Project (Phase-II) but deferred a decision on it with observations to discuss it in the next meeting after considering the technical aspect of the project, inclusion of comments of Sindh in the CDWP report and addressing reservations of all stakeholders, an official statement said.

The meeting was attended by Minister for Planning Asad Umar, Minister for Industries Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar, Adviser to the PM on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood, Punjab Minister for Irrigation Mohsin Leghari and federal secretaries and other senior officers from federal and provincial governments.

Published in Dawn, December 23rd, 2021

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