Asad Umar warns against distortion of facts, insists ‘no politics’ in Rs1.1tr Karachi plan

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Planning minister Asad Umar on Sunday warned against people distorting facts surrounding the Rs1,100bn transformation plan for Karachi announced a day earlier and insisted there was “no politics involved” in the government’s decision to invest in the metropolis.

While addressing a briefing at Governor House in Karachi alongside Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Haider Zaidi and Minister for IT and Telecommunication Syed Amin Ul Haque, he said that these projects are those that were devised a long time ago but could not be taken forward because of a lack of funds or more so, because decision making authority was distributed across the local, Sindh and federal governments.
“So decision making is withheld, there are impediments to work and Karachi remains deprived of its rights,” Umar said, presenting an account of what things had been like prior to the plan’s announcement.
He said that one factor that is central to Karachi’s progress is that everyone “keep politics aside and work together on one platform with serving the people in mind”.
He said that in meetings held with Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah, the same was discussed and he was in complete agreement with the view.
Umar said that during a meeting on Friday to discuss the implementation of the plan, there was agreement on most of the projects with regard to who will execute them — save a project or two.
“Due to that slight disagreement, a debate ensued over whether the federal government is spending more on the plan or the Sindh government,” the minister said, adding that since it was unresolved, it was decided that details of who will do what will not yet be revealed in Saturday’s presentation.
“To maintain that spirit which I talked of earlier, we decided this. If the federal government could have seen to the projects’ implementation earlier, they would have done so already and so would the Sindh government have.
“It was recognised that both need each other to meet Karachi’s requirements. So we decided on simply saying that these are the projects that will be worked on and that both the governments will work together. It is not a race of who spent more money and who didn’t. So we were in agreement of this,” Umar said.
He said that soon after yesterday’s presentation of Karachi’s transformation plan, he began receiving messages asking about the federal government’s actual contribution.
Umar said that a table was shared on social media as well with only Rs36bn shown as the federal government’s share. He said that he paid no mind to any of the material being shared, until a clip of the PPP chairman himself was shared.
“In the clip, he is complaining that the Sindh government is putting forward Rs800bn, whereas the federal government is only footing a cost of Rs300bn.”
The planning minister said he wishes the spirit of agreement that was shown by the Sindh chief minister, was also discussed with and communicated by his leader, the party’s chairman.
“I am not saying anything against Murad Ali Shah. He has said no such thing that we would take exception to. But because the chairman of the party has spoken, we felt it necessary to lay some facts down for the record.”
Umar said that the government has some rules whereby all the ministers are instructed to not speak of anything behind closed doors which they cannot openly speak of in front of the media. He urged everyone working on the projects to stick to this principle.
“The total funding for the list of projects shared yesterday along with the responsibilities assigned amounted to a 62% share of the federal government and 38% of the Sindh government. So approximately, two-thirds of the funding is from the Centre.”
He said the chief minister had expressed the desire to take lead on a couple of major projects to which the Centre said it has no objection. “Even if Sindh wants to fund the entire 1,100bn plan, what could be nicer than that? Karachi brings in 90% of the Sindh government’s revenues, so it rightfully deserves the Rs800bn amount being pledged by the provincial government.”
Umar said that the Centre does not wish to get into such debates and that there is no need for it to show that “we are doing more than the Sindh government”.
He said that the efforts for Karachi will not bear fruit just because some new projects have been envisioned, or that there are some new sources of funding, or that monitoring committees have been formed.
“They will only be successful if all state organisations, all governments (provincial and federal) [work together to] facilitate Karachi which is the largest city, the country’s financial centre, industrial centre and the biggest revenue-making machine.”
“If this city is not helped out, Pakistan will never flourish the way we want it to,” the minister said.
He said that he was “double-minded” whether he should even hold a briefing and does not wish to create a fuss about Bilawal’s statement, but if these things are not clarified early on, the entire efforts for Karachi could be derailed.
“It is Karachi’s, Sindh’s, and the federal government’s responsibility to pay the city its dues.”
He urged all stakeholders to work with this spirit of togetherness and refrain from political point-scoring and attempting to mask the facts.
Umar also once more voiced appreciation for the “positive thinking” of the Sindh chief minister.
Plan’s execution
Responding to a question, the federal minister said that in first phase of the plan’s execution, storm water drains would be completely cleaned, whereas the provincial government had taken responsibility to rehabilitate the displaced people as illegal encroachments are cleared.
On the completion of public transport projects, Umar said that the Green Line Bus Rapid Transport System would complete in 2021 and the Karachi Circular Railway would complete in 2023.
A day earlier, Zaidi had broken down the funding for each area of focus, saying that projects worth Rs1.113 trillion will be jointly funded by the federal and provincial governments.
He said Rs572bn have been earmarked for the Karachi Circular Railway project and associated road infrastructure; Rs267bn are set aside for solid waste management, clearing of drains and resettlement of those displaced; Rs141bn will be spent on sewage treatment projects; Rs92bn on water supply projects; and Rs41bn on the city’s roads.

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