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KP’s ambivalence on budget sets scene for crisis to hit BRT


May 18, 2018

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government indecision whether to table the budget for the next financial year could create a crisis and hit its showpiece Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project as the Finance Department turned down its request for an additional Rs9 billion to be projected in the next Annual Development Programme (ADP).

The project would also face difficulty in approving the additional charges it incurred on cost of land, tax and duty exemptions that come to around Rs 6.3 billion that would have to be passed from the current provincial assembly as supplementary budget. It doesn’t include the additional amount spent on the “on-site and as-built” additions into the project design.

The federal government and three other provinces have already tabled their budgets for the financial year 2018-19. However, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is still going through a state of ambivalence to present or leave the fiscal plan for the next financial year to the next government.

A high-ranking officer of the Finance Department, who is in the know of the BRT affairs, told The News on condition of anonymity on Thursday that the provincial government is facing ‘between the devil and deep blue sea like situation’ when it comes to the presentation of the budget. He said it will have to pass the supplementary budget from the provincial legislature to provide cover for the expenditure on the project beyond those provided by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

He added that on July1, 2017 when the current budget came into effect there were no allocations for the BRT and the assumption was that all the money for the project would come from the ADB.

“It was initially decided that the ADB would provide funds for the project. During the year they (government) realized three things - the ADB will not pay for the cost of land, the income tax, and the customs duties. All three put together gave a price tag of Rs 6.3 billion additional cost for the project. We had to give this money through the supplementary grant to various agencies so that they could continue the jobs related to the project,” the officer said. “Let’s assume what we would do about the approval of this amount if the next government doesn’t own the BRT project,” he queried.

The officer said that earlier the Transport and Mass Transit Department (TMTD) and Peshawar Development Authority (PDA) put forward a request for Rs9 billion to the Finance Department to meet the additional charges it incurred on the changes in the project design.

The amount has been sought to meet the expenses made on additions made in the project design including overhead passage in Tehkal and Gulbahar, changes in Shoba Bazar corridor, Malik Saad Flyover and Aman Chowk and construction of a ramp from Karkhano Market to the Hayatabad Phase-III station.

Referring to the real cost of the project as projected in the PC-I, he said Rs 56.8 billion was to be spent on BRT on infrastructure construction, Intelligent Transport System and fare collection, depots and staging facility, bike share system, parking plazas with commercial development, buses procurement, institutional development and other utilities and resettlement cost that does not include the amount sought by the project executing agencies, PDA and TMTD.

According to the revised PC-II for Phase-II and concept clearing document along with the letter of demand submitted by the PDA to the secretary TMTD, an amount of Rs 7.14 billion has been sought. It said the amount should be included in the ADP for the next financial year (2018-19) to be spent on the additions from Malik Saad Flyover to Aman Chawk via Khyber Road. The amount will not be available to the project executing agencies if the budget for the next fiscal year is not approved by the incumbent government.

The Finance Department officer quoted Secretary Finance Shakeel Qadir Khan as bluntly turning down the demand of the PDA and TMTD for an additional Rs9 billion.

He said Secretary Finance replied in categorical terms that he would not approve any additional grant at the mid of May and at a time when the revised PC-I is not approved and the government has shown no intention to present the next budget.

Shakeel Qadir has already suggested to the provincial government to pass the supplementary budget to provide legal cover for these and other expenditures made by various government departments and projects as additional grants during the fiscal year to avoid lacunae for the next government.