At least Rs35bn to be released for Karachi’s development: Asad Umar

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–‘The impression that govt is fast-tracking Karachi projects under MQM’s pressure is completely wrong’

–‘Govt chalking out a three-year National Growth Strategy to ensure involvement of private sector in decision-making process’

ISLAMABAD: Planning, Development and Special Initiative Minister Asad Umar has said the federal government would soon release at least Rs35 billion for the development of Karachi.

Talking to journalists on Friday, he said Karachi was PTI’s city and the impression that the government was fast-tracking the projects in Karachi under MQM’s pressure was completely wrong.

Earlier on February 6, another round of talks between the ruling PTI and its disgruntled ally MQM had concluded with both sides seemingly agreeing on resolving the civic issues troubling the port city.

“No doubt that MQM is PTI’s ally but we are much more concerned about the socio-economic development of the people of Karachi, where hundreds of thousands of PTI voters live,” the minister said.

According to Asad Umar, at least eight mega projects were being initiated or were near completion in the port city. “These included Greater Karachi Water Supply Scheme, Greenline Bus Transit System, Greenline BRTS Operations Project, Karachi Circular Railway Project, reconstruction of Nishtar Road & Manghopir Road, reconstruction of Manghopir Road from Jam Chakro to Banaras, construction of Flyover at Sakhi Hassan and a roundabout along Sher Shah Suri Road.”

On a query, the minister stated that Prime Minister Imran was completely focused on the facilitation of the masses through a reduction in the inflation rate.

“As a result of the premier’s personal interference in dealing with the issue, inflation is likely to be reduced in the next few weeks.”

Talking about the mega railway project, ML-I, the minister said the CPEC railway project was of extreme importance but owing to the involvement of a huge amount of around $9 billion, the project got delayed as various factors of the project were being closely reviewed.

“I have suggested Railway Minister Shaikh Rasheed wait as the World Bank is evaluating the feasibility study of the project. We should not be in a hurry to move on the project,” he added.

However, he hoped that during the upcoming meeting of Pak-China Joint Coordination Committee on CPEC in April this year, a breakthrough was expected after which physical work on the project might start.

Briefing about the special initiatives being taken by the planning ministry, Asad Umar said that the ministry was planning to embark on a three-year National Growth Strategy 2021-2023.

Explaining about the withdrawal of the government’s five-year plan, the minister said that the strategy had become obsolete and was not applicable in the 21st century.

“Under the [new] growth strategy, the area of focus will be the private sector, which will be fully involved in the government’s growth policies.”

With respect to CPEC, the minister pointed out that the ministry would constitute a new Joint Working Group on Science and Technology while it was also planning to establish Gwadar Expo 2020 to highlight the development works, done under the CPEC. He said that work on Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Act was also underway to provide incentive packages to the industrialists.

Talking about the release of development funds and rate of expenditure, he said the federal government was fully committed to meeting the target of expenditures of development funds under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2019-20.

“The target of spending Rs701 billion on the development projects will be met at any cost as the PM has issued a clear direction in this regard…I have also conveyed my clear direction to the ministry to meet the target.”

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