District Development Package (DDP) of Punjab 2021-22

This piece is in response to Mr. Hasaan Khawar, SACM to the Chief Minister Punjab, who has recently tweeted that District Development Package (DDP) is a game-changer for Punjab. Well, it is not a game-changer.

Budget 2020-21 was prepared with mockery in the name of ‘Development’. Punjab – like KPK – has made one of the stupidest budgets (particularly development portfolio) in years.

A quick look.

Hundreds of thousands of new schemes – tagged under DDP – were included in ADP 2021-22 of Punjab; to make parliamentarians happy. Most of these schemes were non-feasible and against the set rules of development criteria.

For example, a school is proposed near another school (instead of revamping the old one) so that the parliamentarian of the region can cut the ribbon of the new building right before the next general elections.

Similarly, a health facility is being established right within the vicinity of a DHQ or Tertiary Hospital. To cut ribbon. Before election.

And even the calculation is messed up. There are around 20 DDP schemes in ADP 2021-22 which are regarding “Establishment of Trauma Centers” across Punjab. The cost of Trauma Center should be same (at least somewhat). But, no. One trauma center is being established for Rs.50 million while another one is being established for Rs.500 million. Same is the case with schools, BHUs, RHCs, roads, etc. There is no homework and there is no planning.

You remember there were talks of “angry parliamentarians” and “forward block” in Punjab during April-May 2021? This DDP was designed to make them happy. Now they all have something to look forward to cut ribbons around the next General Elections.

With these DDP schemes in ADP 2021-22 worth billions of rupees, CM Office of Punjab directed the Administrative Departments and Local Administrations of the province to approve all the schemes below Rs.50 million by July 21st, from Rs.50 to 400 million by July 31st, and above Rs.400 by August 31st. Even if the schemes were non-feasible.

PC-Is (which is a document of a scheme / project with its complete scope of work, costing, financing, etc.) were prepared within days. Copying one PC-I and pasting it to other 100s. Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners approved (originally approved, principally approved, or pathetically approved) schemes in wholesale. One after another. With or without PC-Is. With or without feasibility. With or without availability of lands / sites. Because they had no other direction from the top, and mostly, the bureaucrats have no ground to stand on.  

There is an online portal called SMDP of P&D Board of Punjab. All the Secretaries, Commissioners, and Deputy Commissioners were in race to mark their schemes as “approved” on the portal. They were approving schemes on Eid-ul-Azha days as well. Don’t be surprised. They were approving schemes without DDC / DDWP meetings.

This is Punjab at the moment. With a stick in the arse, bureaucrats were running around the directions of the CM.

What will this huge DDP portfolio lead to?

Billions will be wasted. With unplanned PC-Is and hassled approvals, long-term results are going to be scaring. Ugly structures with repetitive scope of work and with duplication in equipment and HR; Punjab’s development is going to be hurt in the long-run (technically called: MTDF which is the throw-forward to finance these schemes in future).

This is happening in all 32 departments of Punjab, which fall under the “charismatic” leadership of Planning & Development Board.

Do you know what is the difference between Parliamentarians and Bureaucrats? Nothing. One is cream (expired) and the other is power elite. Both with poor IQ and least concern for the general public. Usually hand-in-hand with the tax-payers money being wasted like this.

Let me give you another example.

Consider the land is free. On a 10 marla plot, you can construct a brand new home, with properly furnished baths and bedrooms, at a cost of Rs.1 crore. Rs.1 crore is a huge amount when you make your own home.

Now come to a government dispensary. Again, the land is free. For a one room dispensary with one shelf, a toilet, a couple of doors, and basic furniture; it will cost Rs.1 crore.

A simple single storey building with a couple of rooms, toilets, and a passage; will have a cost of over Rs.5 crores.

Huge briberies from contractor to SDO to XEN to SE to Chief to all the ugly ducklings in and around the Secretariat move in a discreet manner. That’s the only thing that moves from bottom to top in a swift and sincere manner. With huge corruption, even the newly established structures look old and are ready to leak as soon as there’s Monsoon.

News says that development budget of the province has increased from Rs.337 billion in 2020-21 to Rs.560 billion in 2021-22. But it is not development based on feasibility studies. It is just more. More allocations. More releases. More opportunities. More corruption. More generation of wealth. More ribbons. And more everything.