ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif was “baffled” by what he called the “criminal delay” incurred in the construction of breakwaters at the Gwadar port, despite the availability of ample funds and has sought a comprehensive report into the hiccups that hampered the progress of the project.

In a series of tweets on Wednesday, the prime minister blamed the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government for delays in the project and said that the former ruling party had caused “costly delays” in every project ranging from energy to infrastructure.

“$445m grant, $484m soft loan and feasibility were available but it baffled the mind as to how the previous government ignored the project,” the PM said on his official Twitter handle.

In another tweet, the PML-N president, who came to power following the ouster of Imran Khan in April, said the “time for presentation” was over as it was “time for action”. He added, “Gwadar is not just about infrastructure development; being part of CPEC, it has political, economic & strategic value.” The premier said it was his mission and nation’s collective responsibility to “turn Balochistan’s backwardness into prosperity”.

The tweets by PM Sharif came following a meeting he chaired to review different uplift projects in Balochistan, particularly Gwadar — a crown jewel of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. During the meeting, the PM ordered the chairperson of the inspection commission to submit a comprehensive report within one week over the “criminal negligence” that resulted in delays in the construction of breakwaters at the port.

The secretary of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs — supervising agency for the project — informed the PM that the project at Gwadar under a concession agreement had to be constructed for which $445 million in grants and $484 million in loans were provided by the Chinese government.

Ease of payment process

Separately, the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP), upon instructions from the premier, has decided to launch an online system for citizens to make payments without additional charges. The system will start working after Eidul Azha, Head of PM’s Strategic Reforms Salman Sufi said.

Mr Sufi said efforts were afoot to shift all government payments to the online system within six months and added that instruction have been given to the NBP president.

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2022

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