ISLAMABAD, Aug 23: The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) on Wednesday approved cost overruns of over Rs21 billion for eight ongoing projects, besides clearing 22 new schemes costing Rs67 billion for inclusion in next year’s development programme.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz presided over the meeting, attended by provincial finance and development ministers, relevant federal ministers and secretaries.
Deputy Chairman Planning Commission Dr Akram Sheikh told newsmen after the meeting that the Ecnec considered 27 new and eight ongoing projects costing Rs130 billion. Five new projects costing Rs5.3 billion concerning the health sector were deferred due to the absence of the health minister, he added.
The Ecnec, therefore, approved a total of 30 projects costing Rs93.4 billion. Since the eight projects had already been approved, the meeting approved their additional cost of Rs21 billion that emerged as a result of delays, cost overruns and design changes. The total cost of new projects was Rs72.4 billion.
Dr Sheikh did not specifically explain in detail why cost of these eight projects had escalated. He only said the cost of Right Bank Outfall Drain (RBOD) had increased from Rs14-15 billion to Rs29 billion that basically increased its capacity to carry 3,500 cusec of affluent instead of originally planned 2,227 cusec.
The projects that resulted in putting additional cost burden on the national exchequer included Rs4.6 billion Second Flood Protection Project, Rs29 billion RBOD extension, Rs11.23 billion Taunsa Barrage Emergency Rehabilitation and Modernization project, Rs1.65 billion Punjab Barrages, Rs6.6 billion Pehur High Canal Project, Rs579 million Water Supply Scheme in Khyber Agency and Rs579.4 million National Monument in Islamabad, he said.
The meeting approved a cost increase of Rs152 million to add three leaves of National monument to represent Kashmir, Northern Areas and Fata in addition to the four provinces, he said. The Ecnec also granted post-facto approval of Rs8.8 billion oil-fired thermal power station at Jamshoro that had been established in the 80’s, he added.
The Planning Commission official said the meeting approved 30 projects. Eight projects are on an overall Pakistan basis while three belonged to AJK, two to Balochistan, four to the NWFP, five to Sindh and eight to the Punjab, he added. The meeting also reviewed the economic indicators, and observed that the middle class was emerging in the country and per capital income had reached $847 million.
When asked where were those people who had started purchasing pulses, sugar, ghee and wheat as a result of increase in their incomes, Dr Sheikh refused to comment and said the questions be asked of the advisers.