It was the last meeting of the Ecnec presided over by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz that also reviewed overall project approvals over the last eight years of General Pervez Musharraf’s government.
Deputy Chairman Planning Commission Dr Akram Sheikh told newsmen after the meeting that the Ecnec in its 27 meetings since 1999 approved a total of 649 projects at an estimated cost of Rs2.441 trillion but declined to quantify economic losses resulting out of project delays and cost overruns. He, however, said that generally almost 20 per cent projects faced cost increases and agreed that project delays were not a good thing for the country.
Responding to a question, Dr Sheikh said Chinese engineers and workers were still working at Gomal Zam dam and Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project. He said the planning commission was playing a proactive role with relevant agencies and provincial governments to make strict security arrangements and ensure that Chinese did not abandon development projects in Pakistan and those who have already left should immediately return to work.
Responding to a question, the deputy chairman said that President had set a target of building five big dams by 2016 but this target was to be achieved by the executing agencies and the line ministries while the planning commission had a supporting role in the process. He said the planning commission had made necessary allocations for all the projects. He said a Rs30 billion project was also approved on Monday by the Ecnec for upgradation of KKH as part of Bhasha dam project for which China would be providing about Rs25 billion finances. Likewise, the president was being updated on Akhori dam on a monthly basis and Kalabagh dam was ready for implementation since long.
Sheikh said the meeting also approved a model document for bidding and contract agreements, prepared by the planning commission and Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) to be used in future across the country in all projects and contracts. He did not give details of the new code.
He said that 16 projects approved by the Ecnec on Monday included 11 new projects that would cost Rs80.2 billion. The meeting approved increase in the cost of five ongoing projects from Rs13.7 billion to Rs17.7 billion. As such, the total cost of all the 16 projects stood at Rs97.9 billion. Of the total projects, eight projects were approved in the infrastructure sector with a total cost of Rs66.3 billion and seven projects in the social sector at an estimated cost of Rs30.4 billion.
Responding to a question, Dr Sheikh said almost 40-50 per cent of the 649 projects approved in the last eight years had been completed while another 55-60 per cent was in different phases of implementation. He did not agree that some of the projects might have lost their objectives due to delayed implementation and said even delayed projects always remain relevant.He said the energy shortages and lack of skilled labour remain some of the key challenges and hence efforts were being made to overcome these issues as early as possible for continued development. He said development needs were much greater than envisaged by the government, notwithstanding improvements over the years, and therefore private sector was being encouraged to share the responsibility.