By Farrukh Saleem
Capital suggestion
The Neelum-Jhelum Hydroelectric Project is a 28-year long story of gross incompetence and rampant corruption. This is also the story of Pakistan gross incompetence and rampant corruption. For the record, we have been working on the Neelum-Jhelum Hydroelectric Plant for the past 28 years. For the record, the Neelum-Jhelum Hydroelectric Plant’s total life is 30 years. Imagine: the ‘construction span almost equals the plant’s total life’.
PM Benazir Bhutto from December 1988 to August 1990: The project was approved on December 31, 1989 by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC). The original PC-1 cost of the 969 MW power plant stood at Rs18 billion.
PM Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi from August 1990 to November 1990: Benazir Bhutto was dismissed on charges of ‘corruption and incompetence’ by the then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi was appointed prime minister.
PM Nawaz Sharif from November 1990 to April 1993: The Islami Jamhoori Itteha (IJI), comprising nine political parties led by the Pakistan Muslim League and funded by the ISI, collectively polled 7.9 million votes. Nawaz Sharif’s focus remained the privatisation of nationalised entities and liberalisation of currency controls. Sharif had promised to ‘reduce government corruption’ but the Cooperatives Societies scandal did become quite public.
PM Balakh Sher Mazari from April 1993 to May 1993: The then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismissed the government and appointed Balakh Sher Mazari as the caretaker prime minister.
PM Moeen Qureshi from July 1993 to October 1993: An economist by training and a one-time senior vice president of the World Bank was made the acting prime minister. During his three-month tenure, he published a list of taxpayers, campaigned against tax evaders and loan defaulters, worked towards an autonomous State Bank, and a more independent PTV and Radio Pakistan. He also devalued the currency.
Fast forward to General Pervez Musharraf from October 1999 to August 2008: In 2002, ECNEC revised the PC-1 cost from Rs18 billion to Rs84 billion with 2008 as the scheduled date of completion.
PM Shaukat Aziz from August 2004 to November 2007: Shaukat Aziz awarded the contract to Gezhouba Group of China (on May 29, 2015, the World Bank announced the “debarment of Gezhouba for a period of 18 months” and sent a letter of reprimand).
PM Yousaf Raza Gilani from March 2008 to June 2012: Gilani, concerned about the spiralling cost, reconstituted the board of directors of the Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Company.
PM Nawaz Sharif from June 2013 to present: On July 3, 2013, ECNEC revised the PC-1 cost from Rs84 billion to Rs274 billion. On March 30, 2015, the board of directors, under the directions of the minister for finance, “approved the revised PC-1 amounting to Rs414 billion”.
We started from Rs18 billion and have so far spent around Rs500 billion and the project is yet not complete. At Rs500 billion it is more than $5 million per MW when countries around us are doing the same at under $2 million per MW. Who would really be able to afford the electricity produced by Neelum-Jhelum?
Yes, NAB claims that it has “initiated an inquiry”. And yes, there are other projects like the Nandipur Power Project and the new Islamabad Airport.To be certain, not all of it is corruption. The Neelum-Jhelum Hydroelectric Project is a 28-year long story of gross incompetence and rampant corruption. And that, unfortunately, is also the story of Pakistan.
The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad.
Email: Twitter: @saleemfarrukh