ISLAMABAD Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) with the Federal Minister for Finance Abdul Hafeez Shaikh in the chair approved 33 projects costing about over Rs600 billion including foreign exchange component of Rs130 billion. Federal Ministers, Deputy Chairman Planning Commission, Governor State Bank of Pakistan, Special Assistants to Prime Minister on Water and Social Sector, Provincial Ministers for Finance and Planning & Development, representatives from Gilgit-Baltistan, AJK and representatives of the sponsoring agencies attended the meeting. The approved projects are in the sectors of transport and communications, irrigation, food and agriculture, education and health, energy, information technology and cities development. To overcome the power shortage, five projects of energy costing Rs81.5 billion including Power Distribution Enhancement Investment Programme, Phase-II, National Compact Florescent Lamps, Addition of 500 & 220 KV Substations into NTDC System and Combined Cycle Power Plant of 320 MW to be gifted by UAE were approved. These projects will help enhance the existing capacity in the system through conservation and efficient distribution efforts. Four projects of transport & communication sector costing Rs96.2 billion comprising Procurement of (US Origin) 150 Diesel Electric Locomotives, Improvement, Widening and Construction of Kohlu-Sibbi Road Project (Length 162.5 km), Improvement and Widening of Jaglot-Skardu Road (S-I) (167 km), and Extension of Motorway (M-4) from Khanewal to Multan 57 km. To ensure food security in the country, three projects of agriculture sector approved by ECNEC included Punjab Economic Opportunities Programme (PEOP), Pak-China National Project for Controlled Atmosphere (CA) and Advanced Ventilated Cold Storage, and National Project for Enhancing Existing Capacity of Grain Storage. The projects will help reduce poverty in the rural areas and enhance existing food grain storage capacity. To provide primary health care and to achieve the MDGs goals, important projects of health sector were also approved. These were Prime Ministers Programme for Prevention and Control of Hepatitis (Prime Ministers Emergency Action on Hepatitis), Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI), National Programme for Family Planning & Primary Health Care (NP-FP & PHC) and The Lady Health Workers Programme (LHWP) - Phase-II In his opening remarks, Deputy Chairman Planning Commission, Dr Nadeemul Haq, informed about the need for rationalising the portfolio in line with resource availability. He also emphasised the need for balance between new and ongoing projects and the optimisation of available resources. In his concluding address Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh asked the Planning Commission to present a detailed plan in the next ECNEC with a rationalised portfolio reflecting balanced regional growth and focus on completion of projects to provide maximum benefits to the citizens. He also emphasised the need for improving the monitoring and evaluation of projects to ensure transparency and best utilisation of national resources.