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ISLAMABAD, May 22: The Annual Plan Coordination Committee (APCC) on Tuesday firmed up a Rs549 billion development budget for next year, which includes Rs35 billion for the rehabilitation of earthquake-hit areas.

The allocations for earthquake rehabilitation are about 30 per cent lower than the current year’s Rs50 billion, but the overall Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2007-08 proposed by the APCC will be about 26 per cent higher than the current year’s PSDP of Rs435 billion.Having presided over the APCC, deputy chairman planning commission Dr Akram Sheikh told journalists that next year’s development budget stood at just under Rs549 billion. He said this included a Rs329 billion federal share, a Rs150 billion provincial share, Rs35 billion for the Khushhal Pakistan Programme, and Rs35 billion for the earthquake-hit areas. However, he said, the APCC recommendations need approval by the National Economic Council (NEC).

According to Dr Sheikh, the development programme was worked out on the basis of five principles: the completion of ongoing projects, the initiation of important new approved projects, the initiation of unapproved but crucial projects, the implementation of public commitments made by the president and prime minister and, finally, the equitable distribution of funds among the provinces.

Asked about ‘crucial unapproved projects’, Dr Sheikh said that the government would initiate projects such as cleaning up rivers that are polluted with industrial effluent.

In reply to another question, he said the government would make substantial allocations for the acquisition of land for large dams. Furthermore, the committee on dams headed by Dr Salman Shah, adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue, will arrange the foreign funding required for the dams’ construction.

Dr Sheikh said that the government was laying greater emphasis on a knowledge-based economy, technical knowledge and vocational training, adding that the Vision 2030 document that is to be tabled before the NEC is a step in that direction. He said the government put great importance on the National Trade Corridor (NTC) project and substantial allocations would be made in next year’s budget for the construction and improvement of roads, railways and ports. Furthermore, the government would make the completion of Gwadar Port a priority in order to realise facilities such as the Free Trade Zone and Oil City.