ISLAMABAD - The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) on Saturday approved the revised PC-I of Neelum Jhelum hydropower project at a total cost of Rs404.321 billion. 

The project was initially approved in 1989 with the cost of Rs15.3 billion. The cost was first revised in 2002 and then increased to Rs274.9 billion in 2013. The current PML-N government has further revised the cost upwards by more than 80 per cent just in two years, expecting a capital injection of Rs404 billion .

The ECNEC, under the chair of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar after detailed deliberations, approved the revised PC-I of Neelum Jhelum hydropower project. The committee was apprised that the financial issues of the project were discussed in the Cabinet Committee on Energy (CCOE), following which a sub-committee headed by the Finance Minister was constituted to resolve these issue. The sub-committee noted that the existing PC-I of the project had no provision for certain items including interest during construction. The Committee therefore directed the WAPDA to prepare a revised PC-I and include all the project related costs inclusive of IDC, taxes and duties etc. The revised PC-I was accordingly submitted to CDWP which recommended it to ECNEC for approval. While approving the project, the Committee directed that the NJHPP related schemes of AJK be implemented at the earliest.

The government said that revised amount also includes cost components not fully covered in the earlier PC-I, namely exchange loss Rs72.5 billion, escalation and price adjustment Rs63.1 billion, interest during construction Rs59.5 billion, engineering and supervision Rs16.3 billion and duties and taxes Rs12.4 billion

On a proposal of Ministry of Communications, ECNEC approved the revised PC-I of Sukkhur-Multan Section (392 KMs)of Peshawar- Karachi Motorway Project at a total cost of Rs 314,997.280 million. The section covers the areas of districts of Sukkhur, Ghotki, Rahimyar Khan, Bahawalpur and Multan in the provinces of Sind and Punjab. The Committee was informed that the project was being implemented on EPC basis and therefore there would be no cost escalation during the implementation of the project. The meeting was informed that despite upward revision of the project cost, a saving of Rs. 112 billion has still been achieved through deep scrutiny.

ECNEC also discussed and approved the revised PC-I for KKH Phase-II (Havelian to Thakot 118.057 KM) project at a total cost of Rs.136, 659.60 million. The meeting was informed that increase in cost of the project owed to a number of reasons. The proposed scope of work includes high level bridges as well as tunnels under poor soil support which requires special treatment and needs heavy spending. Further the area is prone to seismic activities which require additional safety measures. Due to poor strata along the alignment, excessive material is required from far off places which needs haulage roads resulting in substantial increase in cost of earthwork. The road will be built on Chinese standards applicable to similar terrain. NHA informed the meeting that a saving of Rs. 58 billion has been achieved in the project cost through a reduction in the bid following technical negotiations.

The meeting also considered and approved the National Highway N-70, Rakhi Gajj-Bewata, East-West, Road Project at a revised cost of Rs. 22,994.660 million. The road is an important link between Baluchistan and southern region of Punjab. The project envisages revamping of a stretch of 32. 651KM long two lane single carriageway of N-70 from Rakhi Gajj to Bewata in the districts of Dera Ghazi Khan and Loaralai. The construction work also includes building of a steel bridge which will be one of its kind once completed.

ECNEC also considered and approved the Fulbright Scholarship Support Programme (Phase-II), which will be funded mainly by the USAID. The project involves a total funding of Rs. 12,567.361 million which includes 9,896.548 USAID’s grant-in-Aid). Under the programme 550 Master/M.Phil and 141 Doctoral scholarships will be offered to Pakistani scholars in US universities in specific disciplines focused mainly on science & technology. The awardees are selected on merit from all over the country, with preference being given to less developed areas as well as to women. Representatives of HEC informed the meeting that all the scholars under the first phase of the project were returning and performing their duties in their parent institutions.