The Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives informed that 70 percent of Rs. 900 billion allocated under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2021-22 would be spent on ongoing projects as throw forward of development projects crossed Rs. 6 trillion.
Parliamentarians and even government officials stress for including unapproved projects in PSDP, which gets lower allocation due to which these projects face delays and its cost escalate. This was stated by senior officials of the Planning Ministry while briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives. They further stated that as per the law, now no unapproved project could be added to the PSDP.
The committee met with Saleem Mandviwalla in the chair to consider and finalize the recommendations of the members on the finance (amendment) bill 2021, relating to PSDP 2021-22.
The committee observed that due to its no role as per the law no approved projects could be added to the PSDP 2021-22. Therefore, it necessitates revisiting the Public Finance Management (PFM) Act. Chairman said that the committee should have some role, and if needed, they could review the PFM act.
Senator Sardar Muhammad Shafiq Tareen raised the matter of inadequate allocation for D.I Khan to Zhob and Zhob-Kuchlak projects. He said that these projects would not even start with these allocations. He also commented that the Southern Balochistan package is a step to divide Balochistan, as the Pashtoon Districts in Northern Balochistan are ignored.
He also demanded that the Fata-Balochistan scholarship should be continued for at least five more years. Senator Sardar Tareen also raised the issue of dualization of the road from Karachi to Quetta to Chaman. He asked that what is the reason that the N-25 road has been divided into two parts. One is included for government funding, while the other is left to public-private partnership projects. He asked that his road should be prioritized.
He further said the project was approved in 2017. However, only 3 percent was allocated for the project in the PSDP. Out of Rs. 81 billion, only Rs. 3 billion has been allocated, said Tareen, adding that with such a meager amount, even the tender for this project could not be issued.
National Highway Authority (NHA) official said that they had demanded Rs. 198 billion for PSDP 2021-22, but was allocated Rs. 113 billion. Replying to Tareen’s question, he said that even the land could not be acquired with such an amount.
Officials of the Planning Ministry stated that NHA gets a one-liner budget. If it wants to fund a project more, it can do so from elsewhere.
Planning Ministry officials stated that no unapproved project has been financed in PSDP. However, Departmental Development Working Party (DDWP) has been given the authority to approve projects up to Rs. 2 billion, contrary to the past practice of Rs. 60 million. Further Central Development Working Party can approve projects of up to Rs. 10 billion, which was earlier Rs. 3 billion and above Rs. 10 billion, projects would be sent to the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC), the official added.
“If we can not make a recommendation then how to run a committee meeting,” said the committee chairman, adding that after the budget, they would monitor and evaluate all the projects.
The official of the HEC apprised the committee that there are a total of 168 projects, out of which 128 are ongoing projects, and 40 are new projects. 60 to 70 percent of projects are structured, and 30 percent are human development projects. 40 new projects have been budgeted this year, the total cost of the ongoing project is 29.736 billion, and the cost of new projects is 12.713 Billion. This year’s total HEC development budget is Rs42.45 billion. 66 projects have been approved this year, out of which 40 projects have been budgeted. Province-wise distribution of the projects is that Balochistan has been allocated 16 projects, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is given 30 projects, Sindh is given 22, and Punjab is given 35 projects. These are a total of 103 projects, out of which 76 are ongoing and 27 new projects. In addition to this, AJK has been given 7 projects. Federal territories have been given 21 projects. Gilgit Baltistan has been given 5 Projects. 32 projects for running scholarship programs have been approved. Province-wise and shares have been given by the Federal Government, he further added.
The official from the Ministry of Federal Education and Federal Training apprised the committee of the total 24 ongoing projects. It started from Rs. 9 billion and for next year Rs. 5 billion allocations is present.
Senator Nuzhat Sadiq said that due to the pandemic last year, educational programs were aired on television channels for teaching purposes. The committee was told that efforts would be made to improve them.
The meeting was concluded with the directions that the remaining meetings of the committee have been canceled following a unanimous protest by the chairman and the committee members, terming the annual PSDP budget meetings exercise as untimely, futile, and undermining the recommendatory role of the Senate of Pakistan.