Mega projects, Markets and Economic Growth

‘Mega projects fail to improve living standards’

Former Finance Minister Salman Shah has said that development spending on mega projects has failed to contribute in improving the standard of living of the average Pakistanis.

Speaking at a public discussion on mega projects, markets, and economic growth, organised by PRIME Institute in partnership with the Fredrich Naumann Foundation, Dr Shah said that despite spending over $500 billion in the last 10 years, Pakistan has managed only to place itself among the states with the most wasteful public spending in the world.

He said that the economic institutions have become politicised, and political emphasis is on starting new projects instead of completing previously initiated ones.

Supreme Court lawyer Mujtaba Jamal said that government’s across the world struggle to finance mega projects. In developing countries with mega problems, the solution to most civic problems would appear in mega scale projects, he said.

Rafay Alam, a noted environmental lawyer and an activist, highlighted the social concerns relating to large-scale projects, and raised the matter of inadequate planning and research at the design and development phase.

He said that there is a critical need to ensure fair and efficient compensation mechanism of land acquisitions for mega projects and an improved resettlement policy should be adopted.

Hussain Qazi, representing Frontier Works Organization, said that social and human considerations are just as important as financial and managerial elements.

He gave the example of the FWO in disaster relief for vulnerable communities, which while a deviance from the organisations stated function, helped improve relations with the local communities and helped streamline projects.

Ali Salman, executive director of PRIME, offered alternatives to conventional financing, ownership, pricing and management models for infrastructure projects.

He called for greater engagement with the private sector and stressed that the government needs to show flexibility and innovation to make public infrastructure projects feasible and sustainable over the long run.

This story was originally published in The News International on 30th March, 2016.


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