Economic uncertainty impacts Rawalpindi’s Ring Road project

Published January 17, 2023
<p>A file view of Rawalpindi’s Ring Road. — Photo provided by Khalid Hasnain</p>

A file view of Rawalpindi’s Ring Road. — Photo provided by Khalid Hasnain

RAWALPINDI: Political and economic uncertainty in the country has also hit the much-delayed Rawalpindi Ring Road (R3) project, as the provincial administration has failed to call a bid to hire a foreign consultant for the third-party validation of the optimal route alignment for the R3 project.

“For the bidding process, the invitation for applications has to be published in foreign newspapers, and we need dollars to pay for these ads,” a senior official of the Punjab government told Dawn.

Similarly, after the bidding process, the selected firm would also need to be paid in dollars, but due to a shortage of dollars in the country, it seems the project would not start in the ongoing year, he added.

However, in case, the State Bank approved the Punjab government’s request for dollars to publish advertisement in foreign newspapers, the entire process of issuing the international tender could take at least three months. Even in that case, the project will start in the next fiscal year, the official said.

Commissioner Saqib Manan was not available to comment on the project as the Punjab government has called commissioners and deputy commissioners to give new directions after the dissolution of the provincial assembly.

Official says there are no dollars to hire foreign firm for third-party validation; projec not to start in ongoing year

R3 controversy

The project found itself at the centre of a controversy after former prime minister Imran Khan stopped the work on the old alignment over allegations of embezzlement. Subsequently, a new alignment was formed from Rawat to Motorway – a distance of 38km.

In March 2022, the then prime minister, Imran Khan, inaugurated the project and gave the contract to the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO). However, work could not take off and Mr Khan was ousted from power in April of the same year.

After the new government came to power, it sought third-party evaluation to decide on the optimal route for the project. At least two local firms applied but they were subsequently disqualified for lack of expertise.

Subsequently, at the time, an RDA official said the Planning and Development Board would be approached to get its approval to re-advertise the proposal for bids. According to RDA, it could either re-advertise in the national newspapers to seek bids from local firms again or approach international firms for the project. Eventually, it was decided that a foreign firm would be approached. However, due to political and economic uncertainty, the process to hire a foreign firm could not kick-off.

As per the old alignment of the 2020 plan, the road project worth Rs64bn was 66.3km-long from Radio Pakistan Rawat to Thalian and from Thalian to Sangjani. However, the PTI government replaced the alignment and the length of the road was reduced to 38km, from Rawat to Motorway.

As per the new alignment, the project’s total cost is Rs33.7bn including Rs27bn construction cost and Rs6.7bn for land acquisition while the total length of the main carriageway is 38.3km.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2023

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