Monday September 27, 2021

Is 2020 a year of sustainable development?

Budget, for most part, has been an exercise of fiddling with figures to most Pakistanis. All the same, it remains a reality they have to live with till the next budget.

Islooites have a reason to relieve in this testing time as the city is going to have a year of sustainable development if budget figures are something to rely upon. The city was witnessing development in the past too but at the cost of its institutions.

For example, a year and a half ago, Capital Development Authority (CDA) went almost bankrupt but some politicians were getting popular putting their name on development projects that had to be halted in the middle after them. Strengthening institutions and not personalities is necessary for sustainability of development, failing which it is all just a political project.

After over two decades of reliance on the federal government, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) has presented a record budget of Rs49 billion this year.

This is the largest ever in the history of the institution. More than that, only 37 percent of this budget will go into paying salaries and perks to employees while in the past it has been an unbreakable tradition to spend the bulk of around 80 percent outlay on salaries.

Hence, 63 percent of the outlay will be spent on development. According to budget figures, 65 development projects are to be carried out with this budget.

Major among these are road infrastructure and traffic congestion interventions; 7th Avenue interchange; 11th Avenue interchange; two interchanges on Islamabad Highway from Koral to Rawat; Rawal Dam chowk; three bridges, and renovation of IJP Road.

The data shows that considerable attention is paid to automation of the civic body which is a positive step as it will dent the culture of bribe every citizen has to suffer from, not least at the one-window land transfer section.

Drive for preservation of Margallas from excessive construction activity also makes its mark in the budget in addition to cleaning of rain drains and slaughter house.

Now is the turn of the most pressing issue of housing units. According to budgetary figures, work on development of stalled Sectors I-15, E-12, I-12 etc will be carried forward. This may the year of completion of Park Enclave 1 and Park Enclave 2.

The Park Enclave extension may earn revenue but possession of land for the project is underway.

If we put a glance on performance of the civic body, it transpires that it has made considerable progress for land acquisition in the last year, a job that had been due for the last 50 years. In the budget, Rs2 billion has been set aside for city rehab.

All these indicators show that 2020 is going to be a year of sustainable development for Islamabad.

In the past five years, government would provide funds as grant or loan to CDA but this is the first time that the civic body has stood on its own feet.

It is encouraging to know that it has been able to put up such a huge budget despite the Rs16 billion paid to Municipal Corporation Islamabad (MCI). Even in this budget, one quarter of salary and expenses for MCI are kept aside.

At present, the civic body has Rs9 billion in surplus and data implies that when the accounts close in end of June, it will reflect nearly Rs10 billion.

If things keep on moving in the right direction, Islamabad can achieve sustainable development this year. But it has been common observation that a team that starts delivering result is torn apart upside down, in which case the city will suffer miserably. Everybody who is anybody in Islamabad hierarchy is craving for credit of anything good that happens to the city on Twitter but unfortunately the real agents of change are too much engaged in fulfilling their commitments to be present on social media.