The general perception in the country is that Punjab is a better managed province, its economy is robust and provincial government headed by PML-N being in power for over two decades has been performing better. However, some cynics say it is only propaganda because except a few mega cities rest of the areas continues to suffer from contentious issues plaguing economy. There is also apperception that mega projects are announced but most of these never become a reality.
Lately, Punjab Development Working Party (PDWP) has approved twelve development schemes of various development sectors with an estimated cost of Rs5 billion. These schemes were approved in the 33rd meeting of PDWP of current fiscal year 2014-15, which was presided over by the Punjab P&D Board Chairman Muhammad Irfan Elahi. P&D Provincial Secretary, Waseem Ajmal Chaudhary, members of the P&D Board, provincial secretaries concerned and other senior representatives of the relevant provincial departments also attended the meeting.
The approved development schemes included: Preparation of Master Plan for Water Supply, Sewerage, Drainage and Groundwater Management System for Sheikhupura, Kasur and Nankana Sahib District (PC-II) at the cost of Rs159.28 million, Replacement of Outlived Sewer Lines in WASA Multan at the cost of Rs1000.213 million, Comprehensive Sewerage/Drainage Scheme Taunsa Sharif including Tuff Tiling of Streets at the cost of Rs495.667 million, Rehabilitation/Extension of Sewerage/Drainage system of Mian Channu City District Khanewal at the cost of Rs299.976 million, Urban Drainage PCC and Brick Pavement Scheme Kasur City District Kasur at the cost of Rs457.681 million, Rehabilitation of Eastern Sadiqia Canal, Bahawalnagar at the cost of Rs257.149 million, Construction of Alternate Buildings in DG Khan Canals Division DG Khan (Revised) at the cost of Rs288.739 million, Widening/Improvement of road Gujranwala Byepass Awan Chowk to Baghwala Chowk via Nowshera Virkan Karyal Road in District Gujranwala (Revised) at the cost of Rs327.439 million, Construction of Bridge over River Chenab at Shahbazpur to connect District Gujrat with Distt. Sialkot, Distt Gujrat (PC-II) at the cost of Rs15.000 million, Construction of metalled road from Benazir Road at railway crossing 1/4/L to Renala Khurd along railway line) via Education University Okara (Kot Bari Bridge to Renala Khurd) via Education University along LBDC Distt Okara at the cost of Rs179.107 million, Construction of Road from Jinnah Chowk to Northern Bye Pass to Multan Public School and Bosan Road to Mattital Road in District Multan at the cost of Rs1107.607 million and Widening and Improvement (Dualisation) of road from Lodhran Bypass, Basti Pacca, Mouza Hussainabad, Basti Muradwala, Haveli Naseer Khan to Hasilwala Distt Lodhran at the cost of Rs308.340 million.
An article written by Dr. Miftah Ismail former head of the Punjab Board of Investment and Trade and a member of PML-N’s Manifesto Committee in March 2013 talks about the huge achievements of PML-N. According to him during its five-year term PML-N was privileged to serve the people of Punjab. During these years PML (N) government accorded education sector the highest priority. The greatest linguistic divide in Pakistan is not between any of its regional languages, but between the elites who can speak English and the masses that cannot. Mian Shahbaz Sharif has endeavored to change that by providing to the poorest of the poor an elite education enabling them to learn English and to progressively master modern scientific and technical education. Shahbaz Sharif is also aware of the growing digital divide between rich and poor and is determined to ensure that the information age does not leave our poor behind.
During the last five years, Punjab has faced unprecedented energy shortages in terms of both natural gas and electricity. The Punjab government requested the CCI to allow provinces to set up in the private sector power projects of more than 50MW. PML-N government has in the last five years issued LOI’s to private parties in coal, solar and hydro projects of over 1,500MW. However, the federal government neither issued a tariff nor signed a Power Purchase Agreement with even a single party, thus nullifying Punjab government’s efforts in the field of electricity generation.
Yet as a stop-gap measure, and knowing very well that grid connected electricity can only be fixed at the federal level, Punjab government has come up with some innovative schemes, giving solar panels and lights to students, helping farmers with research to set up bio-gas and biomass energy plants, and converting some farms to drip irrigation to lessen the need of water and energy.
All of these achievement against the backdrop of Punjab having a fiscal and development budget of only around Rs8,000 per citizen, compared to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa having about Rs12,500, Sindh Rs13,500 and Balochistan Rs19,500. Even by spending only about 60%, on a per capita basis, of what other provinces do, Punjab has been able to deliver better health care, education, infrastructure, flood protection and policing.
Punjab Development budget 2014-15
The Punjab government has approved a development-oriented budget with a total outlay of Rs1,045 billion for fiscal year 2014-15, allocating Rs345 billion for Annual Development Program (ADP). Punjab Finance Minister said the Punjab government would receive Rs804.19 Billion from NFC sources in the new fiscal year. Presenting the budget before the house, he averred that provincial government was endeavoring to produce hydel, thermal, wind, solar and bio-gas energy in future. He stated that provincial government has allocated Rs31 billion for energy sector in the budget. Referring to special emphasis being given to the southern Punjab region by the provincial government, the Minister averred that Rs 119 billion would be allocated to the projects already initiated there. He said 36 percent of the proposed development budget of Punjab would be used in southern Punjab.
The Finance Minister stated that Rs4 billion had also been kept for Health Insurance Card scheme in the next budget. Speaking about betterment of farmers and development in agriculture in the proposed budget, the Minister said provincial government had made an allocation of Rs14.97 billion under that head. The Minister stated that Rs50.80 billion had been kept for development of the sector.
On improvement of information and construction sector, the Finance Minister said that Rs39.56 billion had been allocated to this sector. About metro bus project, he stated that this project would now be extended to Faisalabad. He said that Metro Train Project that was likely to start in Lahore would be completed in 27 months. He said that the provincial government in the next fiscal year would start project of construction of 20,000 houses for workers
Recently, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif presided over a meeting that reviewed infrastructure development projects especially Southern Ring Road project and conversion of streetlights to solar energy under a phased program. The meeting gave approval in principle to converting streetlights to solar power in phases. Chief Minister said that modern and quality infrastructure was essential for speedy development therefore Punjab government was spending billions of rupees on the projects for development of infrastructure in the province. He said speedy and transparent completion of development projects was the policy of Punjab government. He said that means of communication were being improved throughout the province under a solid strategy as it was necessary for accelerating economic, trade and social activities. He said infrastructure development projects had been executed throughout the province speedily and due to timely and quality completion of mega projects of infrastructure development a new era of progress had started in the province.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has said that the Punjab government has decided to set up small coal power plants near industrial load centers and the process of identifying sites has been completed. He was presiding over a high-level meeting on Sunday, which discussed in detail various proposals with regard to setting up of small coal power plants in the province. Shahbaz Sharif said end to energy crisis was vital for keeping the wheel of industries on and overcoming unemployment and poverty. He said ridding the people of load shedding and bringing the country out of darkness was their mission.
The Chief Minister said the government was implementing energy projects without wasting time and all possible steps were being taken for controlling energy crisis at the earliest. He disclosed that planning had been made for setting up small coal power plants near load centers in seven big cities of Punjab including Lahore. He said besides Lahore, small power plants of 55×2 megawatt running through coal will be set up in Sheikhupura, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Gujrat and Multan. He said the process of identifying sites for establishing four small coal power plants of 55×2 megawatt in Lahore had been completed. The small coal power plants were being set up at Sundar Industrial Estate Lahore and M-3 Industrial Estate, Faisalabad, he further said.
On the flipside work on five coal projects completely abandoned after the disruption of 6 600MW Gaddani project. The situation makes humiliating mockery of the tall claims of PML-N led federal government. The gurus at center had announced to wipe out the power outages from the face of Pakistan by 2017 but this seems to have stood far from happening or even falling in the utmost realm of possibility. The proponents kept messing with power point presentations, flow charts, slides and other sophisticated means of multimedia to prove that Gaddani coal power project would change the course of Pakistan’s power situation.
As if it was not enough, the keen Chinese investors who wanted to invest here and make best of the situation and bring foreign investment here have also run away. After abandoning flagship 6600MW Gaddani coal power project, work on proposed five coal power projects of Punjab province has been stopped in the wake of little or no interest shown by potential investor. Sources in power sector said that work on five proposed 6600MW coal power projects of Punjab province has been closed mainly due to the refusal of Chinese investors.
Punjab government initially had announced six coal power projects of 7920MW capacity and called bid on the projects, yet work on five coal power projects (6600MW) proposed to be constructed in Sheikhupura, Rahim Yar Khan, Muzaffargarh, Jhang, and Qasoor districts of Punjab province has been stopped mainly due to the reservations raised by the international investors on the said projects. Similarly, fate of 1,320MW coal power project at Sahiwal, which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in May last year was also in doldrums. These coal power projects of Punjab were proposed to run on imported coal.
Officials at Water and Power Ministry said that heavy investment a not less than a lifetime would be required to build required infrastructure for the transportation of imported coal to the sites of these coal power projects through railways. More, tall claims of incumbent giving an end to the menace of power load shedding till 2017 seemed not true even after the construction of power plants in Punjab designed to run on Liquefied Petroleum Natural gas (LNG).