View Full Version : The eastern route priority By Dr Pervez Tahir - 29th May 2015

29th May 2015, 01:39 PM
The Annual Plan Coordination Committee meeting on May 26 left no doubt where the priority lies. Although the chief ministers present at the National Economic Council (NEC) may raise concerns, but the eastern route has become a fait accompli. The route-change band was sleeping when the current year’s Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) was finalised with some key projects.

The first was land acquisition and shifting of utilities for the 959km Karachi-Lahore motorway. Its total cost is Rs51 billion, of which Rs25 billion had been utilised by June 2014. An allocation of Rs30 billion was made in 2014-15 and Rs25.5 billion were released by May 22, 2015. Second, the construction of the 276km Lahore-Abdul Hakim-Khanewal section was included. It cost Rs41.4 billion. Against an allocation of Rs6 billion in 2014-15, no release was made. Now the length has been reduced to 230km, while the cost is stated to be as high as Rs131 billion. The new allocation is Rs40 billion. This project, too, has not yet been approved.

Third, with Chinese support, construction of 387km Multan-Sukkur section was allocated Rs8.89 billion, with Rs3.89 billion having been released. The total cost of the project is Rs259.4 billion, 90 per cent of which is the Chinese credit.

Fourth, the 296km Sukkur-Hyderabad section was allocated half a billion rupees in 2014-15, but no release was made. The total cost is Rs44.4 billion. The reason perhaps is that it has not as yet been approved.

Finally, the 460km Raikot-Havelian-Islamabad section, the extension of the Karakoram Highway (KKH), was also included in the PSDP 2014-15, at a total cost of Rs364 billion and an allocation of Rs4.5 billion was made including credit financing of Rs4 billion. Again, no amount was released. For 2015-16, Rs28.5 billion is being kept for the 120km Thakot-Havelian section (total cost Rs95.4 billion), and Rs 6billion for land acquisition.

The PSDP for the next year carries this work further. The Sukkur-Hyderabad section receives Rs10.5 billion. The Lahore-Abdul Hakeem section has been allocated Rs131 billion. The Thakot-Havelian section gets Rs28.5 billion. To placate the political opponents from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), the Islamabad-Dera Ismail Khan road has been allocated an amount of Rs6.8 billion out of a total cost of Rs55 billion. Similarly, Rs1.8 billion have been allocated for the Burhan-Havelian road out of a total cost of Rs39.5 billion. These projects did not appear in the PSDP for 2014-15 and have been included this year without the normal approval process. The idea is to connect K-P with the eastern route. All routes, eastern, central and western, lead to Gwadar and, therefore, all routes are the same for the Baloch. The only left-outs are the Pashtun areas of Balochistan.

It seems that the much-touted transition from stabilisation to growth effectively means going all out for the eastern route. True, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is not a single project or route, but the question is which route to take first. The allocation pattern of federal development funding suggests that the eastern route is the priority of the government. During the visit of the Chinese expert group in March this year, it was agreed that “the CPEC should be promoted on a priority basis and step by step, incorporating long, short and medium term needs” and that it should be based on the concrete conditions of Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2015.