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Centre refuses to finance water, university projects, to focus on other schemes

ISLAMABAD: The centre has decided not to finance water sector projects benefiting one province and new universities from the federal Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) in future and instead to launch about Rs97.5 billion worth of new schemes next year to boost agriculture, fisheries and livestock.

A senior government official told Dawn that most of the new schemes for agriculture, fisheries and livestock have been finalised by a special task force led by PTI leader Jehangir Khan Tarin. These schemes, many of them still unapproved or under process, have been allocated Rs10.453 in PSDP 2019-20.

“Financing of water sector projects benefiting one province will be discouraged from the federal PSDP except financing of small dams in Balochistan”, a senior official explained as key policy takeaways of the recent National Economic Council meeting presided over by the prime minister and represented by provincial leadership.

“As a matter of policy, land and settlement cost shall be borne by the provincial government. To fully benefit from such public investment, the provincial government will ensure development of command area. Kachhi Canal Phase-I project will be completed during next 2-3 years”, official record suggest.

Allocates Rs98bn for agriculture under next year’s PSDP

Nevertheless, as per National Water Policy minimum allocation to water sector should be 10pc of PSDP size. Therefore, Rs70bn have been allocated for water sector in next year PSDP against its mandated share of Rs67bn. In doing so, large mega dams and drainage projects (both new and ongoing) are being funded while provincial schemes of small dams would be funded in less developed regions to ensure equitable regional development.

The emphasis of public investment in higher education has also been changed to quality instead of quantity. In this regard, the “establishment of new universities is being discouraged”.

Instead focus would continue to be given on improving quality of higher education with access at the district level and establishment of capabilities in emerging and new technologies. Also the investments will be made to train manpower in technologies like artificial intelligence, cyber security, robotics & automation, big data and cloud computing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, man-made materials, GIS and Space sciences and advanced agriculture technologies.

The schemes in the agriculture identified by Tarin are focused on productivity enhancement of major crops through efficient irrigation practices, reduction in cost of production by adopting right combination of use of fertilisers and certified high yield seeds. Also, targeted efforts would be made for enhanced export of agriculture value added projects and reduction in export of raw material, coordinated research and development of command area.

The main thrust is not only ensure food security for growing population but also bring about prosperity in the lives of rural population in general and small farmers in particular.

“Task force on agriculture has identified projects in consultation with provincial governments and private sector for fast track promotion of this sector by enhancing allocation from Rs1bn in 2018-19 to Rs12bn during 2019-20,” according to official record.

About 24 new projects under the National Food Security & Research Division would be launched in 2019-20 with a total allocation of Rs10.45bn and remaining Rs87bn would spill over the next few years as a throw forward. Half of these projects — 12 out of 24 — are yet to be approved by any development forum — the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) or the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec).

One of the major projects among them is Rs56bn worth of National Programme for Improvement of Water Resources. The project is still unapproved by any technical forum from economic viability aspect but has been allocated an amount of Rs5.5bn for next year.

Another Rs11bn project — also unapproved yet — is Enhancing Command Area of small and mini dams has also been given an allocation of Rs1.1bn in the first year. Likewise, another major project worth Rs7.1bn — Productivity Enhancement of Wheat — has been allocated Rs650 million next year. Yet another project of Rs4.2 for National Oilseed Enhancement has been earmarked Rs400m for next year.

A Rs1.4bn pilot project for development of shrimps farming will be given an amount of Rs400m next year. An amount of Rs450m has been allocated for Rs4.05bn worth of Rice Productivity enhancement while Rs200m earmarked for Rs1.2bn sugarcane enhancement project.

A sum of Rs50m has been allocated for Backyard Poultry, Rs60m for Cage Fish Culture Cluster Development, Rs400m for conservation and efficient use of water in barani areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Rs100m for Calf Feeder Farming.

Likewise, Rs200m would be spent next year on Rs1.5bn Promotion of Trout Cage Farming in Northern Areas while Rs200m being given to Rs800m worth of Save the Buffalo Calf Project and Rs50m for Better Cotton Initiatives.

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