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Political gains: Govt gets closer to restoring PM's discretionary funds

17 January, 2014

ISLAMABAD: Giving in to the pressure from different quarters in the ruling party, the government is heading towards restoring the prime minister's discretionary funds for launching what is popularly known as politically-motivated gas schemes in Punjab.

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ISLAMABAD: Giving in to the pressure from different quarters in the ruling party, the government is heading towards restoring the prime minister's discretionary funds for launching what is popularly known as politically-motivated gas schemes in Punjab.

A four-member committee, constituted by the government and comprising Captain (Retired) Safdar, Hamza Shahbaz and Jam Kamal, is currently reviewing different projects. It is even holding a mid-term review of the Public Sector Development Programme, sources say.

Safdar is representing Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Hamza is acting as a representative of Punjab and Kamal is looking after the interest of Balochistan.

According to a senior government official, the committee met at the Prime Minister's Office a few days ago, where heads of gas utilities – Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) and Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) – were also present.

He said the committee was particularly focusing on projects in Punjab and had asked the SNGPL's top management to provide a complete list of schemes under way in different constituencies of the province.

SNGPL has also been told to complete the ongoing projects, which were launched during the previous Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government, a move which will clear the way for the present administration to launch new schemes and restore the prime minister's discretionary funds as the public utility itself could not provide the entire financing for the gas supply schemes.

The Peoples Works Programme (PWP) was partially operative as the government had stopped work on different projects after coming to power because of suspension of discretionary funds.

SNGPL, which distributes and transmits gas in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, was also unwilling to launch development schemes in the absence of discretionary funds.

"Now, it appears that the PWP will be activated at a healthy pace to launch politically motivated gas schemes in the face of mounting pressure from the legislators," he said.

Synthetic natural gas

On the other hand, SSGC has been asked to undertake Synthetic Natural Gas (SNG) projects, which do not require laying a pipeline network for the supply of gas.

The company, which meets gas needs of consumers in Sindh and Balochistan, is already running three projects in Balochistan.

"One million cubic feet of gas can meet the requirement of 10,000 domestic consumers on the SNG system," the official said, adding this arrangement would not put any pressure on the pipeline network.

Schemes shelved

Soon after taking over in June last year, the current government shelved hundreds of gas development schemes, sanctioned by former premier Raja Pervez Ashraf despite restrictions on such projects.

The schemes were abandoned in the wake of a Supreme Court decision against the use of development funds by Ashraf in the last days of the PPP government.

The SC also directed the government to assess the feasibility of leftover work to determine whether it was in public interest to press ahead with these projects.

At the time of shelving the schemes, SNGPL expressed interest in continuing the work, which was in line with the per consumer criteria and had to be entirely financed by the company.

The petroleum ministry also backed the company, suggesting that abandoning the schemes midway would not only lead to cost escalation, but might also result in loss of partially laid, incomplete pipelines.

End.


 
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