Why public projects suffer

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A majority of people want to go about their routine peacefully and without being disturbed. People feel frustrated when their daily struggle to sustain themselves is hampered because projects that seek public wellbeing are delayed for various reasons. Regardless of which political party rules, projects in the public domain must not suffer at any cost. Since every political government comes to power in the name of the people, their needs must be the top priority.

Let’s consider Lahore’s Multan Road extension project (N-5) from Thokar Niaz Baig to Hudiara Drain. The previous Punjab government approved the approximately 10.7 kilometre-long road with eight lanes – four each way – along with rainwater drains and utility corridors for services. The contractor was disbursed about Rs550 million as mobilisation advance to procure necessary equipment for the project.

The project was supposed to be completed by November 2018. Regretfully, it is nowhere near completion despite the fact that the project has been redesigned. It has been downgraded to three lanes each way instead of four, which is a major blow to the initiative. Had this project been completed in time within the allocated budget, there would have been no need to extend the date of completion and seek extra funds due to the heavy escalation in the cost of materials. The cost of road-construction materials has skyrocketed lately and the public exchequer will have to bear its impact. The new date of completion is likely to be set for the end of 2019.

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Similarly, the Lahore-Abdul Hakim-Multan Motorway (M-3), costing Rs148 billion, was expected to be operational by May 15 this year – five months before its stipulated time of completion. Unfortunately, the 230km-long M-3 Motorway remains in limbo for inexplicable reasons.

Also Read: Only Rs94bn disbursed for PSDP in 1st quarter

What reason, other than bureaucratic dilly-dallying, could there be for the inordinate delay in deputing police officials on the newly-developed motorway? Had the police staff been posted in time, the motorway would have been up and running. The project would have been earning revenue and there would already have return on investment since the intensity of traffic has increased manifold, and the roads are bulging with vehicles.

In addition, the M-3 Motorway has significance for another reason as well: it connects the cities of southern Punjab. The people of this region harbour a sense of deprivation and alienation. Whether this is real or imaginary is beside the point. Perception is what

matters.

It seems as though development projects initiated by one government lose their importance and sense of urgency when another government takes over. When projects are put on hold or delayed, the public suffers. People tend to draw comparisons between the performance of the present and past governments. Therefore, the sooner these projects are completed, the better it is for the incumbent government to avoid public criticism.

Completing development projects on time speaks more about the government’s performance than mere promises in the future. For instance, whenever there is a discussion on TV about various development projects undertaken by the past governments, the unfinished metro bus project in Peshawar is invariably mentioned. Why couldn’t it be completed?

Moreover, provincial governments should realise that road conditions present the first impression of their administrative competence. Haphazard and unruly traffic reflects badly on the administration. The government’s decision to impose heavy fines on traffic violations is a step in the right direction. Some rickshaw and wagon drivers protested against the fines. But why should they violate traffic rules and put the lives of law-abiding road-users in danger?

Other road hogs aside, one often wishes that the traffic police fine drivers who drive at a slow pace in the fast lane, chat on their phones and hinder traffic flow. Such drivers – men and women – are a nuisance for otherdrivers.

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore.

Email: pinecity@gmail.com

(This news/article originally appeared in The News on December 5th, 2018)

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