PM questions slow progress on utilisation of $2.9b ADB funds

ADB financed projectsISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani expressed his annoyance over the slow pace of utilisation of Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) financing facility of $ 2.9 billion for 22 projects mainly in energy and highway sectors.

PM said under-utilisation of foreign funding would be treated as criminal negligence of ministries. He further directed that monitoring of the projects should be the integral part of it in order to determine negligence and also to know the pace of the completion of the projects.Prime Minister said this during a briefing by the Economic Affairs Division on the pace of progress of ADB financed projects in the country.

The meeting was attended by Finance Minister Abdul Hafiz Sheikh, Minister for Communications Dr Arbab Alimgir Khan, Secretary Finance Dr Waqar Masood Khan, Secretary EAD Abdul Wajid Rana, Secretary Water and Power, Imtiaz Kazi, Secretary Communications Amjad Nazir, Chairman NHA Muhammad Ali Gerdazi, and senior officials of the relevant ministries.

PM directed Economic Affairs Division to hold meeting every month instead of three months to remove snags, if any, in undertaking the development projects financed by ADB. It would be appropriate to address issues pertaining to projects prior to negotiating funding with international agencies instead of other way round, he said.

He said it was inexcusable that projects in energy and infrastructure were delayed for which credit facility was already there. He said energy and good highways are the basic requirements for generating economic activities to put the country on trajectory of progress and prosperity. The projects in these vital sectors should be pursued with requisite dedication and commitment.

Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafiz Sheikh said rationalisation and prioritisation of projects should be the fundamental principle in development strategy and taking up of too many projects at the same time must be avoided for the same reason. He said prioritisation is the essence of development strategy and should be followed as such. Secretary Finance pointed out that commitment charges by government due to delay in utilisation of funds had led to net export of capital from the country causing big losses to national exchequer. Secretary Water and Power informed the meeting that reasons for slow pace of utilisation of funds in energy sector had been addressed and therefore it would pick up substantially in the near future.

Secretary Communications and Chairman National Highway Authority said land acquisition was the major hurdle in undertaking projects for building roads and highways. However, the land acquisitions and other related problems would be addressed first as directed by Prime Minister before undertaking the same with foreign funding. – PT