The meeting of the National Coordination Committee on Foreign Funded Projects (NCC-FFP) highlighted the dismal state of affairs when it comes to development in Pakistan. 43 percent of $35 billion worth of foreign-funded projects were classified to be problematic because they were either left incomplete or did not deliver the outcomes desired. Given the ordeal that comes with domestic developmental projects as well, this was no surprise. However, one would expect the government to be a little more proactive when external parties are involved.

The meeting highlighted the serious issue of chronic delays and the failure of successive governments to trace important milestones for each project. In fact, some projects have not even taken off and remain in the planning phase due to either the inability to procure funding or clear out payments to the countless contractors employed. For projects in which construction has begun, monitoring progress is a responsibility often neglected. For instance, in the past seven years, only three CPEC projects have been completed. Over a dozen schemes worth $2 billion remain unfinished because of the government’s failure to clear billions of dues to contractors. Ventures like installing transmission lines, upgrading hospitals, and creating university campuses in Gwadar remain to be ideas right now, not potential realities.

Similarly, the Jamshoro power project began in 2014 and was intended to provide much-needed power to the country. With recent demands to expedite the process being made, it is evident that we are nowhere near the completion of the project. If things stay the way they are, billions of dollars provided by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will go to waste. Currently, Pakistan has to pay the ADB a sum of $100 million because it has failed to successfully use the funds provided for numerous projects over the past 15 years unless it manages to convince the lender to waive this penalty. This implies that not only are we losing out on the potential benefits that each project offers the country but we are digging a grave financial hole that our economy will not be able to help us get out of.

The solution is rather simple; to resolve problems as soon as they come up rather than wait for months before taking any action. Delays should be counteracted with reports as to what is causing them, what the solution is, and how to go about it. Issues like funding bottlenecks, lack of clearance, delaying payments to contractors, or delays in tender finalisation can no longer be tolerated.