Pak nuclear programme faces 35 pc cut

Pak nuclear programme faces 35 pc cut

By Ansar Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: Pakistanís nuclear programme is facing severe financial cuts, badly hampering some core classified projects, it is learnt.

A source told The News that several development programmes of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, including some classified ones, have been slowed down and some even halted as the government has imposed an unprecedented squeeze.

The classified side of the PAEC development budget saw a cut of almost 35 per cent while for the open development programmes only 15 per cent of the budget has been released, thus affecting more than 30 projects. The source said that senior nuclear scientists and those holding key positions in the countryís nuclear programme apparatus were extremely upset with the situation and fear that the cut would badly damage the nuclear programme and would tantamount to a quiet unannounced rollback.

The PAEC member administration, however, denied this but conceded that there had been belt-tightening because of the global recession. Major-General Khalid Mushtaq, while talking to this correspondent on phone from his office, said that the global recession had led to the belt-tightening and the emphasis was on the judicious utilisation of the available resources.

He denied any compromise on the countryís nuclear programme and its development. The resource crunch, he said, should not be interpreted in a manner that may show that there was any compromise on the programme.

General Mushtaq said that he did not know the details of the spending as he was on the administration side of the PAEC. But he insisted that any impression of funds stoppage or slowing down of development programmes would not be true.

He said that there could be prioritisation of different development programmes but the funds had not been stopped. ìNo, no there is no such thing,î the general said.

A source also disclosed that the financing system for the nuclear programme had also been changed, and insisted that it had been done to the disadvantage of the nuclear programme. The source explained that a new system called Assignment Account System (AAS) had been introduced despite the opposition of the PAEC and the SPD.

The new system, it is said, would not only expose the classified purchases of the PAEC but would also not allow these strategic organisations to keep their allocated money in their respective bank accounts.

General Mushtaq, however, said that there might be a change in the accounting system but not in the funding resource, which remains the government of Pakistan. When asked to refer this correspondent to an official who could share the details, he said he had enough information to respond to The News queries. Spending on the countryís nuclear programme remains confidential, he added.

According to the source, while the government has allocated tens of billions of rupees for projects like the Green Karachi and the Benazir Income Support Programme, the countryís nuclear programmeís core classified development projects are still not being provided the badly needed amount, which is not more than Rs 10 billion.

The strategic organisations of the country should be the top most priority of the government but still they got less than 0.5 per cent of the GDP. Those running the nuclear programme and the strategic organisations are extremely upset and do not know why this is being done. Some key officials of the PAEC, the sources confirmed, had even resigned in protest over this strange attitude of the government.

Such an attitude, it is said, had demoralised and de-motivated those handling the core classified projects. The issues of massive slashing of funds and the change in the financial system were also discussed at the highest level but to no avail.

This is like creating hurdles in the progress and development of the country’s nuclear programme, an extremely concerned source said, adding that no government had even done what was being done by the present government.

But a Finance Ministry official said that because of serious financial crunch, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani had recently approved a summary to scale down budgetary allocations for the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) by over Rs 118 billion for the ongoing fiscal year 2008-09.

After getting approval from the prime minister to reduce allocation for the federal share of the PSDP to around Rs 219 billion from its initial allocated amount of Rs 371 billion, the Planning Commission (PC) barred the ministries/divisions on March 24, 2009 from undertaking work on new schemes in the remaining months of the ongoing fiscal year.

Earlier, the government had excluded Rs 34 billion for the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) from development expenditure and put it under the current expenditures.

Under the IMFís prescriptions, the government is taking steps to curtail fiscal deficit within the agreed limit of 4.2 per cent of the GDP or Rs 562 billion and mainly compromising development expenditures. But not many knew that this situation is also affecting the nuclear programme of the country.

Interestingly, while the nuclear programme as well as the development projects under the PSDP is facing financial slash, the government has terribly failed to control current expenditures as only the prime minister has cut down its expenditures by around 38 per cent. The federal ministries and divisions are not following his footsteps.

The Planning Commission, in its March 24th circular, had asked the ministries and divisions that if there were very necessary spending requirements, then the ministries/divisions should approach the PC for getting a No Objection Certificate (NOC).


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