Daily Briefs

Photo : Dawn

19 May 2020, Tuesday, Vol 1, No.19

Pakistan's mega water projects: Four reasons for their failure

Pakistan's mega water projects; World Bank and Pakistan sign a 371-million-dollar loan agreement; transport questions

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

In Focus
By Lakshmi V Menon & Abigail Miriam Fernandez

Pakistan's mega water projects: Four reasons for their failure
Two analysts - Hassan Abbas and Asghar Hussain revisit and review Pakistan's water sector in an analysis published in Dawn ("The Indus failure," Dawn, 19 May 2020), with the World Bank declaring its 73 million dollars' Water Sector Capacity Building & Advisory Services Project' in Pakistan as unsatisfactory. Perpetual project failures plague the sector. Four reasons could be identified as the failures of their argument.

First, the historical lack of local stakeholder involvement and indigenous thinking. Pakistan's water sector's institutional and physical infrastructure has evolved from mega-projects since the 1850s. Mega-projects have a vision, power structure, knowledgebase, and finances. Projects by the British had colonial interests in generating revenue from canal colonies. Post-1947, Indo-Pak water disputes commenced, giving way to the nexus of dictators and Cold War motivated foreign outfits. Colonialism and dictatorship birthed a bureaucracy muddled in secrecy and authoritarianism. While secrecy thrives corruption, authoritarianism helps political power play. 

Second, the lack of transparency in the secrecy-based system of executive decision making, proceedings, economic externalities, and external costs. 

Third, violations of basic principles of hydrology, agronomy, and environmental sustainability by the 'knowledge base'. Flawed ideas, such as shutting of three big rivers, have caused salinity, erosion, waterlogging, silting and made Indus Basin the least water-efficient irrigation system in the world. 

Last, the faulty financial models based on interest-based foreign currency grants and loans dragged Pakistan into a vicious debt cycle.

Pakistan's mega-projects with borrowed vision, dictatorial decisions, flawed knowledge base, and begged and borrowed finances cannot fix the nation's water sector. With the lack of democratic processes, local wealth, and sound science the peril of regional and local water conflicts, environmental destruction, societal discords, and an ineffective Indus Basin will persist. 

World Bank and Pakistan sign a 371-million-dollar loan agreement 
Two loan agreements worth 371 million dollars was signed by the World Bank and Pakistan to finance projects in agriculture and social sectors. The Ministry of Economic Affairs Secretary signed the agreement online on behalf of the federal government, representatives of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa signed the agreements on behalf of their governments, and World Bank's country director signed the agreements on behalf of his organization.

The agreement includes a 200 million dollar Supporting Human Capital Accumulation in Punjab by Early Investment Project which seeks to increase the quality health services, and economic and social inclusion programs among poor and weak households in the select districts in the province. The total approved cost of the project is 330 million dollars, including World Bank financing of 200 million dollars. This project is targeted towards strengthening the quality of primary healthcare services, the introduction of a cash transfer program, and support economic inclusion for young parents. 

Further, the 171 million-dollar Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Irrigated Agriculture Improvement Project is projected to improve the performance of irrigated farming in the province. The total estimated cost for the project is 219.30 million dollars. This development project would help to improve on-farm water management by rehabilitating watercourses, introducing advanced irrigation technologies, and strengthening the capacity of communities. ("$371m WB loans signed for agriculture, social sectors," Dawn, 19 May 2020)

Image Source: Dawn

In Brief
By A Padmashree & P Harini Sha

COVID-19 crisis plunged Pakistan’s FDI by 53.23 percent 
The State Bank of Pakistan has reported that foreign direct investment has plunged by 53.23 per cent in April. Due to the depressed global economy caused by Coronavirus declined inflows and exports which led to the fall of FDI to 133 million dollars for the month from 278.7 million dollars in March. However, every year, the inflows seem to be on the rise with 33 pc showing the highest inflow from China. (“FDI plunges 52pc in April," Dawn, 19 May 2020)

Sindh government is not favour of restarting the train service now
The Sindh government has declined the request of Prime Minister to restart the train services before Eid. The transport minister has stated that, the government values the health of the public than small businesses and that easing of transport will be a catastrophe. He also pointed out that the federal government takes responsibility if the situation worsens. (“Sindh opposes train service resumption," Dawn, 19 May 2020)

Balochistan fears passengers travelling without observing SOPs may transmit the disease to villages
The Balochistan government has asked its people to avoid travelling by train fearing the quick spread of the virus. The governemnt has stated that it will be fatal to allow inter-city and inter-provincial transport. So, it has decided to keep the transport services at standstill. (“Balochistan not to allow public transport resumption," Dawn, 19 May 2020)

Seven soldiers killed in two attacks in Balochistan
In Balochistan, in two separate incidents of violence, Seven Frontier Corps (FC) soldiers were killed on Monday (18 May 2020) night. The first incident took place in Mach, when six soldiers who were returning to a base camp was killed by an IED explosion. In the second incident, another soldier was killed, in an exchange of fire in the Kech district. This is the second major incident in recent weeks in Balochistan. On 8 May, six soldiers were killed in another IED attack near the Pakistan-Iran border. (“Seven FC soldiers embrace martyrdom in separate attacks in Balochistan,” The Express Tribune, 19 May 2020) 

Solider killed in North Waziristan 
In a market in North Waziristan, one solider was killed in an IED explosion. According to the police report, there was one casualty and several injured. (“Soldier martyred, three injured in blast in North Waziristan," Dawn, 19 May 2020)

Prime Minister agrees to non-reduction of transport fare and allows to resume railways
The Prime Minister has agreed to the demand of transport association to not cut down the travel fares upon the Supreme Court’s direction. This will enable the inter-city transportation in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He has also assented to the request of Railway Minister to start back the railway services to help people reach their hometowns. However, all to be allowed to function under strict SOP guidelines. (“Government complies with SC orders as death toll tops 920," Dawn, 19 May 2020,)

Pakistan’s GDP falls into zero range in negative -0.38
The National Accounts Committee of Pakistan has reported that the GDP growth rate for the outgoing fiscal year drops to zero range in negative -0.38 per cent for the first time in 68 years. The negative growth in all sectors except agriculture and financial sectors led to a decrease in Pakistan’s total economy to 264 billion dollars in the outgoing fiscal year. (“Pak economy size shrinks to $264 bn,” The News International, 19 May 2020)

PIA records 43 percent increase in revenue
Pakistan International Airlines records an increase of 43 percent in its annual revenue profit for the year 2019. The annual report of national flag carrier announced that PIA has been able to achieve a gross profit of Rupees 7.8 billion in the financial year 2019 for the first time in eight years. PIA has attributed the efforts of route optimization, fares rationalization, and enhancement of ancillary revenue for the magnanimous growth and the reduction of an operating loss to 76 per cent in the year 2019. (“PIA records 43% increase in profit for the year 2019,” The Express Tribune, 19 May 2020)

One year passed. Pakistan is yet to announce the Chairman and members of the National Commission for Human Rights
The NCHR was established to investigate petitions of human rights abuses. Now it stands one year after expiration on 30 May 2019. According to Dawn, the director-general said that there is no delay regarding forming the commission and appointing its chairman. But it was due to a stay order by the former chairman that has caused a barrier to the process. (“National Commission for Human Rights still non-functional despite lapse of one year," Dawn, 19 May 2020)

Changes in the IRSA expected, as the differences over telemetry persist
The heads of three members of the Indus River System Authority (IRSA) from Punjab, Sindh, and federal government are expected to be removed following the rifts between the water regulator and the Ministry of Water Resource on installing telemetry system on the Indus Basin Irrigation System. The crisis boiled to this point when IRSA members refused to provide a contact to this project and blocked the installation. The Ministry of Water Resource has announced that the project ensures a real-time flow measurement system for just and transparent water distribution among the four federating units and it has to remove members blocking the project. (“Heads of three IRSA members may roll today for blocking telemetry project,” The News International, 19 May 2020)

"It would be naive to assume that the deal will lead to a perfectly functioning dispensation in Kabul" says Dawn Editorial
The editorial in Dawn assesses the power-sharing deal signed between Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah to end the impasse condition in Afghanistan by stating, “It would be naïve to assume that the deal will lead to a perfectly functioning dispensation in Kabul”. He says, though the relationship between both men is tenuous, they have to work together at least for the sake of protecting Afghanistan from the bloodthirsty IS fighters which would allow the state of chaos and severe financial crisis to continue. (“Kabul deal,” Dawn, 19 May 2020)    

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