Rs70b plan to tackle Covid, other calamities okayed



ISLAMABAD:

The federal government on Wednesday approved a Rs70 billion umbrella project to improve its response to the coronavirus pandemic and other calamities.

The development has come in the wake of the authorities struggling to develop a comprehensive health framework for dealing with the disease.

The Central Development Working Party (CDWP) agreed with the recommendations of a committee for a project titled ‘Covid-19 Responsive and Other Natural Calamities Control Programme’ costing Rs70 billion with proposed changes, according to a handout issued by the planning and development ministry.

It further read that the PC-1 of the project would facilitate the national programme to improve district headquarters- and tehsil headquarters hospitals on a 50: 50 basis financial support to all provinces.

It will also improve public health surveillance separately for humans and animals and also assist in upgrading water sanitation and hygiene and local infrastructure. Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan will also be covered under the project financing.

Under the plan, projects costing up to Rs50 million and of short gestation period of up to one year will be initiated. The gestation period will be up to a maximum of two years except for the schemes meant for systemic improvements.

 The less developed areas will be given priority and community- and youth-related projects will be funded on priority. Projects having provincial share in funding will be approved with their consent while the federal government will have full freedom to approve fully funded projects.

An amount of Rs45 billion has been approved for the national programme to improve health facilities at district headquarters and tehsil headquarters. Another sum of Rs7 billion has been given for public health surveillance, Rs12.5 billion for national programme for water sanitation and hygiene, Rs5 billion for the improvement in local livelihood infrastructure and Rs500 million has been earmarked for establishment cost of the project.

The Rs70 billion programme had been conceived to provide support for provinces to mitigate the impact of the deadly respiratory disease. The CDWP had cleared the Covid-19 umbrella project in June this year but it was again brought before the forum due to some changes in PC-I of the project.

The umbrella project is in addition to another $200 million World Bank project, which the lender has suspended due to delay in completion of procedural formalities.

Pakistan had also launched an appeal for loans of $595 million to combat the impact of Covid-19 on businesses and lives of people. But utilisation of that money too remained slow, although the Asian Development Bank and World Bank approved sufficient loans.

It was decided that the National Finance Commission formula will be used for funds distribution among provincial governments and the Islamabad Capital Territory instead of the earlier decision of first-come-first-served basis. The provinces would have to submit their PC-Is within two weeks or else their share would lapse.

Overall, the CDWP meeting, chaired by Deputy Chairman Planning Commission Mohammad Jehanzeb Khan, gave the nod to four projects worth Rs16 billion and recommended one scheme worth Rs37.9 billion to ECNEC for consideration. The COVID-19 Responsive and Other Natural Calamities Control Program worth Rs70 billion was in addition to these five schemes.

The CDWP recommended Phase-II of the Pak-China Optical Fiber project to ECNEC for the establishment of Cross Border OFC Network (Khunjrab-Gwadar-Karachi) along CPEC routes at a cost of 37.9 billion.

Another project, the establishment of National Aerospace Science and Technology Park worth Rs3.5 billion, was also approved in the meeting.

A project related to physical planning and housing titled ‘Construction of Islamabad High Court Building’ worth Rs5 billion was also approved in the meeting.



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