Development projects: Fund releases remain slow as govt grapples with priorities



ISLAMABAD: The federal government released Rs14.5 billion last month for meeting development expenditures of half a dozen ministries, a paltry sum when compared with Rs540 billion total development programme for this year as planners struggle to reset priorities in the development budget.
The money was given mainly to the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) and the National Health Regulations and Services Coordination Division, show documents of the Ministry of Planning and Development.
Some of the requirements of the Ministry of Railways, Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority, Ministry of Law and Justice and Ministry of Interior were also met.
The released amount is only 3.5% of the planning ministry’s development budget component and just 2.7% of the total development budget for the current fiscal year 2013-14, which commenced on July 1.
The PML-N government has set aside Rs540 billion for meeting the development needs of the country and out of that Rs425 billion are at the disposal of the Ministry of Planning and Development. An amount of Rs115 billion has been earmarked for new initiatives by the government.

At present, the federal government and provinces are in the midst of reprioritising the development budget after the latter objected to the Public Sector Development Programme, arguing that the programme had been finalised without taking their input.
A committee constituted by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in early June to reset priorities for development schemes has failed to meet the July 31 deadline, as the planning ministry could not timely initiate the exercise. The committee is not expected to complete its task before the end of August.
According to the planning ministry documents, out of the Rs14.5 billion released in July, Rs7.3 billion was given to the PAEC.
For the construction of Chashma 3 and Chashma 4 power plants, an amount of Rs6.8 billion was released and for acquiring land for the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant, the government gave Rs132 million. Apart from these, Rs33 million was given for preparing a pre-feasibility study on the 1,000-megawatt Karachi Coastal Nuclear Power Plant.
In the social sector, Rs5.2 billion was given to the National Health Regulations and Services Coordination Division, mainly for funding various population welfare programmes.
The Ministry of Law and Justice’s Access to Justice Programme got Rs264.8 million. This programme has been going on for years with the help of the Asian Development Bank but so far most of the milestones have not been achieved.
The government gave Rs350 million to the Pakistan Railways for repairing diesel locomotives. Besides, Rs1.5 billion was given to the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (Erra) for carrying out activities in earthquake-hit areas.
Established after the October 2005 devastating earthquake, Erra was supposed to wind up operations this year but it has become another permanent feature of the civil-military bureaucracy.
Ministry of Planning spokesman Asif Sheikh told The Express Tribune money releases for development schemes were expected to pick up this month, as historically provision of funds remained slow in July. The ongoing exercise to reprioritise the PSDP would not have much effect on the releases, he believed.
Responding to a question, Sheikh said the funds provided by the Ministry of Planning should be compared with the budget of Rs310 billion as the government had not authorised projects against Rs115 billion, which has been set aside for new projects.
The federal government has recently hinted at linking Rs115 billion worth of new initiatives with Federal Board of Revenue’s ability to achieve this year’s tax collection target of Rs2.475 trillion. Any shortfall will cause a dent on the development budget.



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