World Bank suspends $200m Pakistani project

Balochistan has some of the worst health indicators in the country. (REUTERS)
Updated 01 April 2019
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World Bank suspends $200m Pakistani project

  • Balochistan has some of the worst health indicators in the country

KARACHI: The World Bank has suspended a $200 million project in Pakistan’s southwest, a spokeswoman said on Sunday, jeopardizing development work in one of the poorest and least developed provinces in the country. The water resource project, in Balochistan province, was due to be completed by October 2022.
But the bank has highlighted numerous problems with the project, including financial management and a lack of progress.
“For the time being, the project has been suspended for 30 days,” Mariam Altaf, a spokeswoman for the World Bank, told Arab News.
The Balochistan Integrated Water Resource Management and Development Project was signed three years ago and the bank committed to cover $200 million of the estimated $209.70 million cost.
“Unfortunately, there has since then been a lack of progress in managing the project, disbursing funds, proceeding with the civil works, and fiduciary control,” the bank said in a statement.
“The World Bank has suspended the project and offered to work with the government of Balochistan over the next 30 days to restructure the scope and governance arrangements to more realistically begin to deliver sustainable water management to the province.”
Balochistan has some of the worst health indicators in the country.
About 62 percent of its population does not have access to safe drinking water and more than 58 percent of its land, which makes up 44 percent of Pakistan’s total land mass, cannot be cultivated because of water shortages.
The project was designed to strengthen “provincial government capacity” for water resources monitoring and management and to “improve community-based water management” for targeted irrigation schemes in the province.
Azim Kakar, the spokesman for the chief minister, and Sajjad Ahmed Bhutta, additional chief secretary for planning and development, declined to comment on the suspension.
Adnan Aamir, a Quetta-based development expert, said provincial bureaucracy was to blame.
“The way government machinery operates is flawed and obsolete and can’t cope with modern day governance requirements,” he told Arab News.
“The suspension of this project will badly affect agriculture in the Nari and Porali river basin areas.”


US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

Updated 56 min 16 sec ago
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US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

  • A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend
  • The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group

KABUL: The US envoy for peace in Afghanistan expressed disappointment on Friday after the collapse of a planned meeting between the Taliban and a group of Afghan politicians in Qatar that exposed some of the deep divisions hampering efforts to end the war.
A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend. The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group, which included some government officials attending in a personal capacity.
“I’m disappointed Qatar’s intra-Afghan initiative has been delayed,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghan reconciliation, said on Twitter. “I urge all sides to seize the moment and put things back on track by agreeing to a participant list that speaks for all Afghans.”
The collapse of the meeting before it had even started, described as a “fiasco” by one senior Western official, laid bare the tensions that have hampered moves toward opening formal peace negotiations.
Khalilzad, a veteran Afghan-born diplomat, has held a series of meetings with Taliban representatives but the insurgents have so far refused to talk to the Western-backed government in Kabul, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.
The Doha meeting was intended to prepare the ground for possible future talks by building familiarity among Taliban officials and representatives of the Afghan state created after the US-led campaign that toppled the Taliban government in 2001. A similar encounter was held in Moscow in February.
President Ashraf Ghani’s office blamed Qatari authorities for the cancelation, saying they had authorized a list of participants that differed from the one proposed by Kabul, “which meant disrespect for the national will of the Afghans.”
“This act is not acceptable for the people of Afghanistan,” it said in a statement on Friday.
Sultan Barakat, director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies in Qatar, which had been facilitating the meeting, said there was no disagreement about the agenda.
“Rather, there is insufficient agreement around participation and representation to enable the conference to be a success,” he tweeted.
Preparations had already been undermined by disagreements on the government side about who should attend, as well as by suspicions among rival politicians ahead of presidential elections scheduled for September.
The Taliban derided the agreed list of 250 participants as a “wedding party.” Some senior opposition figures who had been included refused to attend.
The Taliban also objected to Ghani’s comments to a meeting of delegates that they would be representing the Afghan nation and the Afghan government, a statement that went against the insurgents’ refusal to deal with the Kabul administration.