A glance at the provincial budgets shows a much-needed increase in allocations for infrastructure development
Like many Third World countries, Pakistan’s economy suffers from a sluggishness often attributed to a lack of requisite infrastructure. Successive governments have been accused of investing too little in infrastructure development. The growing burden of debt servicing and soaring non-development expenditures has caused a steady decline in development allocations, squeezing the infrastructure development. A glance at the provincial budgets shows a small but welcome increase in allocations for infrastructure development.
Economists attach utmost importance to the improvement of infrastructure. This includes transportation systems, communication networks, urban development, agricultural development, water supply, power, sewage and promotion of tourism etc.
The Punjab has a Rs 352.8 billion allocation for the purpose, approximately 63 per cent of its Rs 560 billion Annual Development Programme. The ADP allocation itself shows nearly 66 per cent increase in development budget over the previous year. This indicates that the PTI government has finally started prioritising the development needs of the province.
Rs 145 billion has been allocated for infrastructure development. This is nearly 26 per cent of the ADP, and 6.4 per cent of the total budget. Of this allocation, the government plans to spend Rs 58.3 billion on construction and repairs of roads, Rs 30.78 billion to launch new irrigation projects and repair the existing ones, Rs 30 billion for urban development and Rs 19.27 billion for energy projects - including solar power and wind energy schemes.
The Punjab desperately needs construction of highways, especially those connecting productive farmlands and urban markets to boost the supply routes facilitating growers and industrialists. The Rs 58.3 billion for roads is 2.5 percent of the budget. The completion of motorways network and laying down of high-speed railway tracks through the ML-1 project under the CPEC have already been delayed. Rs 8.27 billion has been allocated for nine new schemes, out of which Rs 6 billion will be utilised for upgrade the existing Main Line-I (ML-1) and establishment of a dry port near Havelian, under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The flagship projects the Punjab aims to complete next year include Nishtar-II hospital in Multan, Agriculture, Food and Drug Authority, Mother and Child Hospital at Mianwali, Cardiology Institutes at Rawalpindi, Multan and Dera Ghazi Khan and solar power drip irrigation systems. Over the next fiscal year, several World Bank-funded schemes in the province will be undertaken. These include the Punjab Urban Land Systems Enhancement (PULSE), the Rural Sustainable Water and Sanitation, the Support to Naya Pakistan Housing Programme. But no definite amount has been allocated in the budget for those projects. The Asian Development Bank is funding the Agriculture Market Development, Greater Thal Canal, Improving Workforce Readiness and Sustainable Highways Development projects.
The Sindh government has allocated an ambitious Rs 28.378 billion for infrastructure development in its 2021-22 budget. It will take up construction of BRTs, expressways, repair of highways and purchase of hybrid electric buses, and restoration of Karachi Circular Railway project. The allocation is 1.9 per cent of the budget, yet nearly 40 per cent larger than the previous year. Combined with a promised Rs 20.595 billion foreign funding it stands at Rs 48.973 billion, which observers consider a positive start in view of the poor state of road network and transport facilities in the province.
The ADP shows nearly 66 per cent increase in development spending over the previous year. This indicates that at last the government has started prioritising the development needs of the province.
For decades, Sindh has been criticiszed for its poor transport facilities and dilapidated highways and broken urban roads. The allocation could provide a reliable foundation for building a strong infrastructure since both provincial and local governments have been blaming the lack of funds for the poor state of affairs of the transport infrastructure. In the current budget, Sindh has allocated Rs 699 million for the construction of BRT Orange Line in Karachi. The construction of a BRT Red Line in Karachi has been planned with Rs 469 million local funding and Rs 15.955 billion foreign funding. The Yellow Line BRT corridor has been planned with Rs 60 million local and Rs 4.64 billion from foreign funding.
Sindh plans an optimistic road construction projects including 12 kilometre dual carriageway from Korangi Creek / Causeway to PAF Airmen Golf Club as an alternate route to resolve the heavy traffic jams, an 8 kilometre dual carriageway from Lyari Expressway ramp at Mauripur Road towards Y-junction of Kakapir Road, but no allocations have been mentioned for these projects. Rs 6.5 billion has been fixed for the procurement of electric buses for Karachi. A Rs 7.640 billion allocation has been made for Transport and Mass Transit Department. Rs 607.818 million has been allocated for Sindh Infrastructure Development Company Limited. Rs 6.476 billion has been allocated for procurement of 250 diesel hybrid electric buses under Sindh Intra District Peoples Bus Services Project. Rs 1 billion has been allocated for procurement of 100 diesel hybrid electric buses under Sindh Intra District Peoples Bus Service Project (Phase-II). Rs 4.987 billion has been earmarked for the construction of underpasses/flyovers on railway crossings along Karachi Circular Railway (KCR).
KCR rehabilitation and dualisation project Phase-II has received an additional allocation of Rs 1 billion in the federal budget.
Sindh Institute of Child Health and Neonatology (SICHN) will get Rs 200 million, a 200-bed infectious diseases hospital at NIPA Karachi will get Rs 1 billion. Rs 45 million has been earmarked for an infectious diseases hospital at Gulistan-i-Johar, Karachi. The annual grant of Indus Hospital, Karachi, has been increased from Rs 2 billion to Rs 2.5 billion.
The KPK has announced a record Rs 371 billion development budget. 33 per cent of the total Rs 1,118.3 billion outlay. The infrastructure development allocations stand at Rs 67.5 billion, 6 per cent of the total budget. It has enhanced the budget for science and technology by 137 per cent. Rs 48.2 billion has been provided for the construction of 3000 kilometres of roads including the Peshawar-Dera Ismail Khan motorway, Swat motorway Phase II, the Haripur bypass and the Peshawar-Torkham motorway. The Torkham Safari Train service is to be revived to promote tourism but no allocation has been made for it. Chashma Right Bank Left Canal, Bannu economic zone, Darband economic zone in DI Khan, Pak-Austria Educational Institute in Haripur, Hattar industrial zone, Pakistan digital city in Haripur, 870 MW Seki-Kinari hydropower project, 300 MW Balakot hydropower project, and Kurram-Tangi and Bara Dams, and University of Lakki Marwat too have gone without allocations.
Under its public-private partnership schemes, the KPK has announced Swat-Motorway Ph-II, Peshawar-DI Khan motorway, Small industries estates and special technical zones in various districts. A record Rs 13.2 billion allocation has been made for agriculture sector focusing on promotion of olive cultivation and establishing trout fish villages in Malakand and Hazara divisions. Rs 4.4 billion has been allocated for improved healthcare facilities, and upgrade of basic health units and rural health centres.
Balochistan has announced Rs 156.5 billion development budget, nearly 26 per cent of the total outlay. Of the development budget, Rs 22 billion has been earmarked for infrastructure development. This is nearly 4 per cent of the total budget. The Balochistan budget has a deficit of Rs 84.7 billion. The government is expecting federal transfers of Rs 355.9 billion. The province is facing a resource shortfall of Rs 84.6 billion for its ADP. A slashing of its development spending is thus likely.
The writer is a senior political reporter at The News International