ISLAMABAD: The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) and Central Development Working Party (CDWP) on Wednesday cleared a total of nine development projects with an estimated cost of about Rs143 billion.
In a meeting presided over by the Minister of Finance Ishaq Dar, the council approved two projects with a total estimated cost of Rs28.5bn. These include the Gwadar Airport Project worth Rs17.6bn and the World Bank-funded Financial Inclusion and Infrastructure Project worth Rs14.32bn ($137 million).
A committee led by Secretary Planning and Development was directed to rationalise the cost and scope of the financial inclusion project.
The committee noted the project’s objectives were in line with the aims of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy currently being implemented by the government to achieve universal financial inclusion in the country. The project was cleared by the CDWP.
A committee was also constituted to design another project and work out cost estimates of Expressway at Gwadar Port so that formal negotiations with China could begin for loan and implementation.
The committee held detailed discussions on the construction of an expressway on the east bay of Gwadar Port. The project will be financed through an interest free loan from the Chinese government under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The project envisages construction of 18.981 km 4-lane divided expressway with embankment for 6-lanes structures, integrating Gwadar Port with the Makran Coastal Highway as well as with the free zone and future container terminals.
The committee approved the Lahore-Sialkot Motorway Link (4-lane) via Narang Mandi to Narowal at a cost of Rs14.2bn with the instructions that the implementation must be ensured in the given time period. The project aims at construction and dualisation of 73.35 km of new and existing road to provide connection of Lahore-Sialkot motorway with Narang Mandi, Baddomalhi and Narowal.
CDWP clears seven projects
Separately, the CDWP led by Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal cleared a total of seven projects with an estimated cost of Rs143.5bn. These include two projects of about Rs2.6bn the CDWP approved. It referred the remaining five projects to Ecnec for approval because of their higher financial impact.
Under the current mechanism in vogue, the CDWP has the powers to approve projects with less than Rs3bn cost. It also has the mandate to examine projects of higher costs on technical grounds and refer them to the Ecnec for formal approval.
As such, the CDWP approved two projects of Rs2.6bn including the Rs486m project to set up a National Centre for Artificial Intelligence. Mr Iqbal instructed the project cost should be rationalised to a maximum of Rs200m. He said the project would help train future teachers of international caliber and move Pakistan forward in the fields of technology and research fields.
Another project of the HEC worth Rs1.6bn for Establishment of New Generation Geodetic Datum of Pakistan was also approved by the CDWP.
The project is expected to encourage research and innovation in the areas of economy and society and its linkages would promote cooperation between science and technology, public institutions and government agencies.