Now that the balance of payments crisis has passed, it appears the Finance Ministry is in a more relaxes position. The successful Chinese and Saudi bailouts that Pakistan received after negotiations (the details of which are yet to be received) have eased the economy and given it breathing space- although Pakistan still might have to go to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a loan, it will be in a more powerful position to do so. Now that the foreign reserves crisis is not so impending anymore, it is time for the Finance Ministry to take some initiative, and through reports coming in of recent meetings held by Finance Minister Asad Umar, it seems the government is signing off on government projects with some hefty bills.

The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec), in a meeting presided over by Asad Umar, approved six development projects worth about a whopping Rs660 billion, five of them from the water and power sector. The meeting approved a proposal of the Ministry of Water Resources to include Tangir Hydropower in the Diamer-Bhasha dam project that increased its cost by around Rs5bn — bringing it to a revised cost of Rs479.68bn, whereby previously, the cost was estimated to be Rs474.68bn. It is to be noted that this is still a cost-effective plan- previously WAPDA had complained that the cost of Tangir Hydropower could go to Rs10bn, but was shut down by the Planning Commission, which claimed it an overestimation for a small hydropower project.

Peshawar residents will be happy to hear that a considerable amount dedicated to development projects will also go to ensuring the completion of the Peshawar BRT Sustainable Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Corridor Project. The Ecnec was updated on the Peshawar BRT Project with a request to increase its cost by Rs38pc. It is about time that the process be speeded up for BRT, which is already behind schedule. The construction for the project has made daily life in Peshawar a nuisance due to blocked roads, traffic congestion and air pollution. It is hoped that completion of the project, which is estimated to be opening in May next year, will improve mass transit in Peshawar and trigger urban development, activities and density along the BRT corridor.

Some criticism has been aimed at PTI for the accelerated cost of the project but the fact is that the original cost of the project was Rs57bn and the revisions amount to only Rs9bn, a normal amount in such development projects.