Delays in donors’ funded projects
In a briefing of Economic Affairs Ministry, Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed annoyance over the snail pace implementation of ongoing projects and procedural delays in initiating new ones. These tactics of bureaucratic red tap and policy of pick and choose under political pressure compel the global lending agencies to put on hold the release of economic assistance which is already in the pipeline for ongoing development schemes and disbursement sanctioned loans for newly conceived projects. At present $21 billion foreign economic assistance is under suspension, out of which $14 billion were committed for the ongoing mega projects.
Capacity issues of executing ministries, departments and agencies and lack of transparency in the utilisation of financial resources has blocked the flow economic assistance worth $7.5 billion. The release of one-fourth of the undisbursed loans could have been secured by simplifying the project approval process and fast racking the award of contract. The top bureaucracy is either unwilling or lack the required expertise to address these problems. A committee was formed to remove the factors responsible for such delays but it could not finalise recommendations despite holding a number of meetings.
The major causalities of bureaucratic wrangling include a number of projects in power sector the timely implementation of which could have given spurt to economic growth and created jobs. The World Bank had sanctioned the first tranche of $588 million loan in June 2014 for 4160 megawatt Dausu hydel power project, which is yet to be disbursed. Similarly, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has approved $300 million for Tarbella hydro-power project. Likewise, the Asian Development Bank had approved loan of $ 4.5 billion in 2016 for the modernization of power transmission and distribution system, which also had a component of $ 400 million for the installation of smart meters for consumers of Islamabad Electric Supply Company and Lahore Electric Supply Company. The loan approved for up-gradation of power distribution system is still undisbursed. In such a scenario, the multilateral donor agencies are compelled then to impose commitment charges of 0.15-025 percent over and above the interest payments in the range of 1.25 percent to 3 percent. Lack of coordination among the ministries of Finance, Economic Affairs, Planning and any other relevant ministry contribute to this phenomenon. The same bureaucratic delaying tricks in provincial governments mar the execution of schemes of people uplift in health, education, drinking water, sanitation and agriculture. In addition to piling up of foreign debt burden, costs of ongoing and new projects escalate. There is dire need of positive change in attitude of ruling political elite and unfortunately politicized bureaucracy. The Prime Minister, while addressing the federal bureaucracy after assuming the reigns of government, had eulogized the role of civil servants of 60s in the economic development of the country. However, it was the ruling leadership of impeccable integrity buttressed by the professional competence of bureaucracy which achieved the desired goals on the economic front in that decade.