ISLAMABAD: The government cleared Rs62 billion worth of seven new development projects including a scheme for the widening and upgrading of Jaglot-Skardu road at an estimated cost of Rs32.3 billion.
Headed by Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal, the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) endorsed these projects. Four of them will be placed before the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) for final approval.
The CDWP has the mandate to approve up to Rs3 billion worth of projects while schemes that have higher costs go to Ecnec for final nod. The CDWP recommended the widening and upgrading of Jaglot-Skardu road project to Ecnec for final approval.
The National Highway Authority, which will execute the scheme, has already given its approval. The 164-kilometre road will be completed in three years. It is aimed at widening the sharp curves that will halve travel time to four hours and make the journey safer.
The new road will provide connectivity between two important cities and give access to the people of Skardu along with opportunities emerging from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
For the outgoing fiscal year, the government had allocated Rs7 billion for this project in the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), which is unlikely to be spent due to delay in approvals.
Iqbal directed that a third party should validate the cost of the Jaglot-Skardu project while also seeking early start of work.
The CDWP also cleared another project for the improvement and widening of Thokar Niaz Baig road in Lahore. Total cost of the project is Rs10.4 billion and the government had allocated Rs1 billion in the PSDP for the outgoing fiscal year.
The planning minister expressed the desire that the government should exempt land acquisition for the project from all taxes.
The project-approving authority also cleared the remodelling of Warsak canal system in Peshawar and Nowshera districts at a total cost of Rs12.1 billion.
The project has been conceived in an effort to improve canal system on the Kabul River. The planning minister said the project cost should be equally shared by the federal and provincial governments.
The CDWP approved the setting up of a technical training institute of the Special Communications Organisation in Gilgit at a cost of Rs100 million. The project has been designed to impart skills training to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.
The planning minister emphasised the need for establishing a software park in Gilgit-Baltistan. He revealed that a fibre optic cable project, which had been initiated with the cooperation of China, would be completed this year. It will ensure provision of better information technology services to people of the remote region.
The CDWP also cleared the provincial government-funded Punjab Tourism for Economic Growth project at a total cost of Rs5.8 billion.
The World Bank will provide a loan for this scheme that is aimed at promoting tourism opportunities in the province. The minister underlined the need for protecting national heritage sites in the province and developing a master plan in this regard.
The CDWP approved a skill development project for the training of 1,100 young people in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Total cost of the project is Rs78.5 million and international donors will provide funding.
Another project called Pakistan Productivity Quality and Innovation Initiative costing Rs278.5 million also got the CDWP’s seal of approval.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 10th, 2017.