ISLAMABAD: The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved on Saturday five development projects having an estimated cost of Rs892 billion.The five projects pertained to the energy, communication and higher education sectors, including the one involving construction of the Sukkur-Multan section of the Peshawar-Karachi Motorway Project.The meeting of the committee, presided over by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, approved almost all the projects that were on the agenda.After detailed deliberations, Ecnec approved the revised PC-I of the Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project, having a total cost of Rs404.3bn.The meeting was informed that financial issues of the project were discussed at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Energy, after which a sub-committee headed by the finance minister was constituted to resolve the issues.The sub-committee noted that the PC-I of the project had no provision for certain items, including interest during construction. It therefore directed the Water and Power Development Authority to prepare a revised PC-I and include all the costs like interest during construction.A revised PC-I was accordingly submitted to the CDWP which forwarded it to Ecnec for approval.
While approving the project, the committee instructed the authorities to implement all the related schemes of Azad Kashmir at the earliest.Ecnec approved the revised PC-I of the Sukkur-Multan Section (392km) of the Peshawar-Karachi Motorway Project, having a total cost of Rs314.9bn, on the recommendations of the ministry of communications.The section passes through the districts of Sukkur, Ghotki, Rahimyar Khan, Bahawalpur and Multan. The committee was informed that there would be no cost escalation during the implementation of the project.Ecnec also discussed and approved the revised PC-I for the Karakoram Highway phase-II project (Havelian to Thakot), having a total cost of Rs136.6bn.
The meeting was informed that a number of reasons were behind the increase in the cost of the project. The proposed scope of work included high bridges as well as tunnels which required special treatment and heavy spending.The project area is prone to seismic activity which required additional safety measures. The road would be built as per Chinese standards applicable to the similar terrain.The National Highway Authority (NHA) informed the meeting that a saving of Rs58bn had been achieved in the project cost through a reduction in the bid following technical negotiations.
The meeting also approved the National Highway (N-70) project at a revised cost of Rs22.9bn. The road is an important link between Balochistan and the southern region of Punjab.The project envisages revamping of a 32.65km stretch of the N-70 from Rakhi Gajj to Bewata in the districts of Dera Ghazi Khan and Loralai. The construction work includes building of a steel bridge.Ecnec also considered and approved the Fulbright Scholarship Support Programme (Phase-II). The project involves a total funding of Rs12.56bn which includes Rs9.89bn grant-in-aid from the USAID.
Under the programme, 550 master/MPhil and 141 doctoral scholarships will be offered to Pakistani scholars in US universities in mainly scientific disciplines.The awardees are selected on merit from all over the country, with preference being given to less developed areas as well as to women.