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Mehtab Haider
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Muhammad Saleh Zaafir
May 20, 2017

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No politics on progress: PM

No politics on progress: PM

NEC approves largest development outlay in country’s history; share of provinces increased by 10 percent; six percent GDP growth envisaged for next fiscal

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday expressed satisfaction that the federal and provincial governments are working in harmony for the development of the country disregarding political preferences as all the four chief ministers were present with him in the just-concluded significant visit to China.

“The development should not be politicised as it is for prosperity of every Pakistani,” the prime minister said while addressing the National Economic Council (NEC) here, which accorded approval to the Annual Development Plan (ADP) for the next fiscal year. The NEC meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the Prime Minister's House. Nawaz was of the view that the government was attaching great importance to the economic activities since the future of the country was attached with prosperity of the people.

“We are approaching the times when the efforts for improvement of the economy will go beyond politics. The time isn’t far off,” he said. The prime minister expressed satisfaction that the country’s economic indicators had significantly improved and international financial rating institutions were acknowledging this fact that follow strict yardsticks in their assessments. While referring to the GDP growth, Nawaz Sharif reminded that the growth rate of 5.28% for the current financial year was commendable. “We will push it to enhance it further.”

He said that Pakistan was now among the fastest-growing economies of the world. The prime minister informed the participants of the meeting that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects were being completed on a fast track basis. He said the government was focusing on energy projects. He said not only power supply was a priority of the government, but it was providing affordable power supply for consumers. Nawaz said the government was also focusing on a balanced mix of sources for energy, including LNG, coal, hydel, solar and wind.

Describing infrastructure as the key to development, he said the government was concentrating on roads and communication networks. He said that the government had adopted people-centric approach for development planning. The prime minister said that his government was pursuing a people-centric approach for development and had increased the provincial share in the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2017-18, which was three times more as compared to the fiscal year of 2012-13.

The council meeting was also attended by Governor KP Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, chief ministers of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif, Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah, KP Pervaiz Khattak, Balochistan Sanaullah Zehri besides Prime Minister Azad Kashmir Raja Farooq Haider, Chief Minister of Gilgit Baltistan Hafiz Hafeezur Rehman and federal and provincial ministers. The prime minister said projects under CPEC were also on the fast track. Nawaz recalled that during the One Belt One Road (OBOR) Forum in China, all chief ministers accompanied him and the world saw that Pakistan was united and unanimous for development. He termed it a very positive message. "We are focusing on energy projects. Not only power supply is our priority but we are providing affordable power supply for consumers," the prime minister said. 

Nawaz said infrastructure was the key to development and the government was focusing on roads and communication networks. He said Fata, AJK and GB were as important for the federal government asother provinces. He said rural development projects in health, education and other social sectors were being given special attention. The prime minister said the people-centric approach had been adopted for development planning. He said that the rural development projects of health, education and other social sectors had been given special attention.

Earlier, the NEC approved national development outlay of Rs2,500 billion, the biggest ever in the country’s history, including federal development programme of Rs1,001 billion and provincial development outlays of Rs1,112 billion for the upcoming budget 2017-18.

The NEC also granted its nod to macroeconomic framework by envisaging both GDP growth and inflation at 6 percent each for the upcoming financial year. The size of Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) for 2017-18 at Rs1,001 billion is 26 percent higher than 2016-17 allocation of Rs800 billion and 31 percent higher than the revised estimates of development spending at Rs715 billion for 2016-17. The share of provinces has been increased by 10 percent.

The NEC approved discretionary fund to the tune of Rs90 billion, including Rs40 billion for the Federal Development Programme (FDP), Rs30 billion for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Rs20 billion for PM’s Initiatives, especially for health sector.

Addressing a news conference after the NEC meeting, Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal said that the total development outlay for the next fiscal would be standing at Rs2,500 billion, including Rs1,001 billion as federal PSDP, including Rs166 billion as foreign aid, Rs1,112 billion for provincial ADPs (annual development plans) and Rs400 billion financing done by corporations with self-financing such as NHA, Wapda and others.

The minister said the government allocated Rs12.5 billion for energy for all and another Rs12.5 billion were allocated for clean drinking water for all in the PSDP. The government, he said, inserted inter-university sports competition for which special grant will be provided to the HEC. “We have allocated Rs20 billion for PM’s hospital scheme and health insurance scheme,” he added. He said all the chief ministers of provinces participated in the NEC meeting and all of them were pleased that the development programme was finalised in complete consultation by evolving a consensus. He said their genuine concerns were addressed.

For the infrastructure, the minister said that the government allocated Rs411 billion, including Rs320 billion for the NHA, Rs43 billion for Railways and Rs44 billion for aviation and others. The government attached its higher priority for energy sector for which it allocated Rs404 billion, including Rs87 billion through PSDP and Rs317 billion through self-financing of NTDC/Gencos and Wapda. For CPEC projects, the government allocated Rs180 billion for the next financial year. In order to meet pressing requirements of Balochistan for provision of water, the government allocated Rs17 billion as Kacchi Canal would be constructed to irrigate 55,000 acres of land of Dera Bugti. The federal government has included 13 projects for development of Gwadar as part of the PSDP for 2017-18 with allocation of Rs83 billion.

The minister said the prime minister directed during the NEC meeting that some mechanism should be devised for distribution of financial resources through the NFC Award for AJK, GB and Fata as there were legal hitches in the way for declaring them provinces. He said the PM directed to jack up allocation for AJK from Rs12 billion to Rs22 billion, which is the biggest-ever increase for the AJK in the history of the country. The allocation for the GB increased from Rs9 billion to Rs12 billion and allocation for Fata went up by Rs2.5 billion from earlier allocated amount of Rs21 billion, added the minister.

The government has allocated Rs153 billion for social sector as allocation for Higher Education Commission (HEC) went up from Rs13 billion in 2012-13 to Rs21 billion in the last financial year and finally increased to Rs35.5 billion for the next financial year.

Ahsan Iqbal said that the government would train 100,000 youth on EPR software with estimated cost of Rs1 billion which will help find jobs. He said that the Centre of Excellence, Cyber Security and Robotics would be established. He said that the NEC approved growth target at 6 percent for the next budget and the size of the economy was going to touch $350 billion mark by the next fiscal year against the existing size of $300 billion after achieving growth of 5.28 percent after long nine years.

“We are making efforts to include 8,000 to 10,000 megawatts electricity into the system, which will help boost the industrial sector in the next financial year,” said the minister.

The country’s revenues stood at Rs3.146 billion during July-March period of the current fiscal year against Rs2.9 trillion in the same period of the last financial year. Total investment to GDP ratio stood at 15.8 percent for the current fiscal year against 15.6 percent for the outgoing fiscal year. The exports have estimated to fetch $21.7 billion for the current fiscal against $22 billion for the last financial year. “We expect that exports will pick up as the impact of PM’s package will come after time lag,” he added. The imports might touch $45.7 billion in the current fiscal against $40.5 billion last financial year.

The investment to GDP ratio is projected to go up to 17.2 percent in the upcoming budget. The exports are estimated to grow up to $23.1 billion. Total number of schemes during 2017-18 would be standing at 973 projects including 643 ongoing and 330 new schemes. Infrastructure sector has been allocated 62 percent of total development budget and the highest priority has been accorded to transport and communication sector with allocation of Rs404 billion, including Rs324 billion for NHA, Rs42 billion for Railways and Rs38 billion for other projects, including aviation schemes. The government has planned to utilise Rs404 billion for energy sector projects during the upcoming budget out of which Rs87 billion was proposed from the budget while Rs317 billion will be invested by NTDC/Genco/Wapda from self-generated resources.

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